Are you thinking about applying to a PhD program? Are you already a doctoral student? PhD is a huge investment of time and money. So make sure you spend 15 minutes of your time reading this blog devoted to PhD program success and survival tips. I'm confident that these tips can save up to 10 years of your life, up to $1,000,000 of your money, and, most importantly, your physical and emotional health.

Friday, April 3, 2009

When to Quit your PhD Program

The best time to quit your PhD program is no later than 1-2 years into the program. This is a perfect time to quit:

  • You haven't wasted too much of your time and energy
  • You are still healthy and motivated
  • Your are still young and you don't feel guilty about starting all over (e.g. getting an unpaid internship)
  • Usually, there a "golden parachute": you can quit after 2 years with a masters degree in hands. Some schools don't like students to get a masters instead of a PhD. This usually means that you got your masters for free. But there's very little that prevents you from doing so. What you can do is simply quit the PhD program and take a couple more classes to get your masters.
Many of my friends quit our program after 1-2-3 years and I think they made the right choice. All of them have high paying jobs in the industry and exciting personal life.

The longer you stay in the PhD program, the harder it becomes to quit. Here are some of the factors that make quitting hard:
  • You feel guilty about writing off those 3-4-5 years... Actually, this may be a typical example of irrational economic thinking. Read about sunk cost in economics. The thing is that those years is a sunk cost. You will never be able to get those years back. If those years is a waste, there's no reason for putting more years into the degree. Here's a good analogy for your. Let's say you lost one million dollars in a casino. That money is a sunk cost: it's gone, you cannot get it back. So if you lost 1 million dollars, placing additional bets is not a good idea. Leaving the casino immediately is the best choice. Most PhD students are smart, but they can't understand this old and true principle. Emotions usually get into their way.
  • The thought of staring everything over (e.g. getting an internship in your field) is very disturbing. Most people your age already have established careers, houses, families. You know you were smarter and more hard-working than those people. Yet you are forced to start working as their apprentice.
  • You got brainwashed. You became persuaded that working long hours for minimum wage s the best deal in the world.
  • You just don't want to change. You are afraid of the uncertainty. You realize that your life and career suck, but you are afraid of the unknown. You think it can be even worse if you quit.
  • You have a low level of self-esteem. You had so much problems with your dissertation, you are not sure whether you can do well even working at a convenience store.
I think that many of these factors are simply irrational. Try sober yourself up a bit. Look at people around you. Many of them have cars, houses, boyfriends/girlfriends. And they don't have a PhD. You are probably not any worse than they are. You can live like that too. In fact, after so many hardships and sacrifices, you have become much smarter and experienced in life. You wanna work hard/play hard. If someone offers you a decent job with a decent pay, you will work much harder and smarter than people around you. You are hungry for life, which is a good engine for success.


  1. I'm so glad to have come across your blog! I am about to quit my PhD program in the UK. After 18 months of feeling miserable (pretty much all of the time except for several rare occassions), I am finally taking control again, and that feels amazing. I have felt powerless throughout my travails in HE. Instead of bolstering my confidence, the PhD took every last drop of it away. I gained 35 pounds, had permanent black circles under my eyes, and made Eeyore look like a party animal. I think it's going to take some time (possibly years) to detox from the years of institutionalisation. There is no doubt in my mind about this decision. I just wish I had made it earlier. Oh well, we start here...Thank you for this blog! I'm going to go now and read your other entries!

  2. My PhD program took a tall on my confidence too. I came to the program as an ambitious, smart, hard-working young man. After a few years I started to feel like a lazy idiot. I had remind myself of things like my standardized test scores, my GPA in undergrad program, my achievements in sports, etc. to prove myself that I'm not as worthless as I think. But don't worry - the detoxification process is going to be much shorter than you think.

  3. The PhD without doubt delivers a serious blow to your confidence. I remember feeling quite assured and centred before I started it. You begin to second-guess yourself so much. I thought the PhD experience would have the opposite effect and work miracles for your self-esteem, but instead you spend most of the time thinking you're getting everything wrong and you're not good enough, even questioning if you're worthy enough to be doing one. I bet most people would be shocked to find that most PhD students suffer from low self confidence. They just wouldn't believe it. We must of had some confidence to even have the courage to apply for something of this magnitude.

  4. I'm a PhD student (16 months in) who just realized she has cripplingly low self-esteem and wonders how, when, and why the affliction began. I'm so glad I came across your post! It's so true, I am beginning to wonder if I'm qualified for any job whatsoever (despite having a degree in Engineering).

  5. Hey, this is normal. Most people feel that way. In fact, I think if you don't feel that way then there's something wrong with you. I think it has to do with the fact that academic mentality is to rip apart everything that comes to your sight. No matter what you do it's not good enough. No matter what you say - someone will disagree with this.

  6. Wow...what a wonderful and honest article. I am quitting my program with a (free!) masters and am now interviewing for several high-paying jobs. I feel so much happier and appreciated! (Academic science is a thankless job...) I wish all of those that are quitting/considering quitting good luck. Have faith and confidence in your decisions and all will turn out well!

  7. I am a year into my program and wrestling with my decision to stay/leave...I want a life again!

  8. If you don't like your PhD program and have serious doubts regarding your willingness to be a professor, then quit ASAP. It's better to do it now rather than 5 years from now. In my experience, most of the successful PhD students (and then professors) had very little doubt in their desire to do research (no matter how useless it seems from on outside) and be a professor.

    Having certain periods of depression and feeling like quitting is probably common to all PhD students. But if it drags for months and years, there's no point in continuing your PhD studies. And remember this: if you are a very stubborn and disciplined person who doesn't quit things no matter what, chances are high that those qualities will lead you to an even more miserable state. Read some of my posts on employment in academia.

  9. If someone drops out of a PhD program to pursue a faculty position, and 10-15 yrs later decides to pursue a different PhD (not in the dropped field, but related), what are the prospects of getting into a new program? I dislike my current PhD program, and don't really like the career options (more limited than I thought when I enrolled). How do admission committees generally perceive leaving a program for a job that provides experience?

  10. Saffron,

    I've seen plenty of PhDs who switched their fields to pursue a more lucrative academic career (e.g. English --> Business). It's hard to guess what admission committees will say... But at at least three of the PhD students in our program were the ones who "failed" in their previous graduate studies.

  11. I have been struggling for 8 years paying thousands of dollars (student loans)to try to complete my PHD. It has cost me serious self esteem issues coupled with life events. In the last several years I have taught pt under ABD (perfectly acceptable). I am currently laid off and been told by 90% of the recruiter to take off the PHD education (over qualified). I think I want my life back!

  12. Hey, I'm in a similar situation. I've spent 6 years and tens of thousands of dollars to get my PhD. I published 13 papers and received high student evaluations. Couldn't find ANY full-time employment in academia.

    I'm looking for a corporate job, which really sucks. I feel like I need a senior position that commensurates with my education. However, you need experience for those positions. Applying for entry level jobs kind of sucks: I have an emotional problem with this. Plus, I see HR people being suspicious of the fact that a PhD is applying for the jobs typically taken by those who have a bachelors degree and no experience.

    I grieve about the damage I've done to my life. However, I look at this as follows: some people spent years fighting during WWII, spent decades in soviet labor camps yet came back and had good lives, careers, and families. So I need to do my best to turn my life around, even if it means starting all over. I don't think I will be applying for academic jobs next year. I made my decision: I came from an emotional, intellectual, and financial war. And I need to start my life from scratch.This is the only viable option I have.

  13. BTW - don't be too hard on yourself. Right now it's terrible period for everyone. I know a person who has an MBA from a top 3 school, years of experience in senior management positions, and yet he is out of work for almost 6 months now. Use this time to explore and research instead. Don't try to gain control of your life - right now it may be impossible. Default on your loans (if this is an option), take temporary jobs (e.g. teaching English)

  14. Just say thank you to this blog, and thank you to GOD for opening our hearts before everythigns are too late.....

  15. Hey, Irfan! I'm glad you've found this blog to be useful.

    Just like with many things in life, there's often no such thing as the correct decision. My only hope is that people will try to look more rationally and pragmatically at their PhD studies and make a decision based on that. In most cases, I would not dare recommend anyone to quit or to stay in a PhD program. Only you know what to do. But there are quite a few cases where pursuing PhD studies or trying to find an academic job after you get a degree is akin to madness or drug addiction.

  16. Im so happy I discovered this blog, Im tearing up as I read it and the comments.

    Im leaving a phd after 3 years and 1 year leave of absence. Ive been on anxiety medication and struggling with feelings of worthlessness, incapableness and crippling low self esteem.

    The decision to quit was not so much like a weight lifting, more like a thousand ton boulder being lifted from my shoulders.

    Thanks to all for sharing.

  17. Alexander, thank you for spreading the truth about PhD programs and academia! The only thing that I don't like about your blog is that I didn't discover it earlier. It could have saved me a lot of money, time, and energy. I recently quit my PhD program. It was a hard decision. Just 1 month into it, I knew it was a mistake. But it took me another year to finally walk away from this toxic waste. I had a job in the business world before starting the program, and the job afforded me lots of opportunities for international travel and personal growth. Left the job to pursue PhD because of misconceptions about the nature of the PhD degree and the prestige of it. To this day, I have no idea what in the world made me do such a stupid thing. Coming from the business world, I remember meeting my fellow Phd students on the first day: I thought I was watching a freak show. I should have quit then and there and gone back to my company. The following year was pure misery: financially, socially, and psychologically. I hated my life, hated the program, and hated myself for getting into this. I felt like a prisoner counting the number of days left until I would be free again. My whole life was on hold and my growth as a person, socially and psychologically, grounded to a screeching halt. I despised the academic types around me, their pathetic jokes, gossip, and pettiness. I am glad that I had experience in the real world before and that I didn't jump in straight from college. This way, I had a context, and I knew what was normal and what was not. I knew I had gotten myself into a toxic waste dump. I knew I had to get out... So looking back, here's the damage--money: about $80000 in lost income even factoring in the stipends; career: disrrupted career path and 1 year of lost job experience, networking, and personal growth opportunities (and yeah, no idea whether I'll find a job soon with a devalued resume or be able to go back in today's environment); personal: 1 year of life wasted in total misery. I figure that since it's going to take me a while to get my life back on track again, the ultimate cost will be closer to $150000 and the psychological cost will be a lot higher in the long-run. Again, thank you for spreading the word. I sincerely think that you are saving lives. No kidding. Keep up the good work.

  18. "Yes, you may feel embarrassed to be a quitter in the eyes of you family and friends. But you will be even more embarrassed when you are in your 30's, completely broke, and with very uncertain employment prospects. This is the worst feeling of all."

    I'm the poster of the previous long message. I just saw your above comment on another post. Oh my God, Alexander, you speak such truth!!! This is exactly what I thought and the terrifying thought of the above description becoming reality is what jolted me out of inaction and gave me the courage to finally walk out. I'm glad it took me only 1 year to realize this.

    College students around the country should be educated about this. Unless you are foreign student from a poor country, for 99% of students in the US, PhD is a terrible idea! God bless you for the good work!!

  19. Thanks for your input. I will post your comments as a blog entry if you don't mind.

    You know, I took some time off after finishing my PhD. I also have a lucrative job waiting for me. Nevertheless, I still think that a PhD is a terrible deal 90% of the time.

  20. And please don't worry to much about the psychological costs. Human beings are much stronger psychologically than they think. Most people recover from all kinds of stress rather quickly.

  21. Hi Alex, i am on my 3.5 year which falls into your 'economic irrational thinking' category. I have to agree with you on those points. Compared to our friends, mates in Uni while doing a bachelor and mater, we have lost soo much, and probably takes years to catch up (if we could do so confidently and luckily)

  22. Glad I came across this blog. Had some excitement, some doubt all along about the program I'm about to enter, and still do. Thinking about not enrolling after all with such mixed feelings, along with increasing understanding of the reality of a lot of what is posted here. The difficulty is a weak job market and relatively few options.

  23. Thank-you. Simply hearing about this has helped (at least for now). I completed my PhD about 3 months ago. I was completely and utterly burned-out. Then I ran one more intense study so that I could prove my methods (developed during my PhD) further. That put me over the edge. I've been sort of drifting for about 2 months now. reflecting on the experience: I found my limits and I learned not to give up the "perceived" power to control my own life. Still- I still have to heal from learning the hard way.

    I feel I need to take a break from everything- to go away for a year, maybe join a circus. What do you think?

  24. Having read through the comments and reflected on my own experience (4th year PhD)I would have to agree that the PhD process is not for everyone and it can cause amazing stress. I have certainly had days where I felt sure that my old job in retail would give me a lot more satisfaction. I think that the thing students are not told about is that they will have to compete at such an irrational level and that the research environment is highly prone to criticism and negativity. In fact, it seems to me that half of the faculty are crazy themselves and more concerned with their personal standing than the work they do. For students who just want to learn/grow the academic environment can be completely demoralizing. I wish good luck to anyone who is conflicted about their PhD progress and I strongly agree that life without a PhD is a perfectly reasonable proposition.

  25. Hi Alex

    Thanks for creating this wonderful blog! I was admitted to a top PhD program in economics in the US but I left after 3 months. The professors there were terribly manipulative and purposely misled the new students. I was also unsatisfied with the lack of money and resources there. Two other students also shared my observations, but they were years older and I guess not every student would like to spend their time and energy to plan what they would do after leaving the program. I left between September 12 -15, the days when Lehman Brothers was collapsing. Looking back, I am glad that I left because the university was in deeper financial trouble now. The idea of sunk cost that I learned in undergraduate economics classes helped me with my decision and probably saved my time and my parents' money!

    Soon after leaving the program, I started my back-up plan to pursue another career path. Still, I found my 3-month experience rather disturbing. It's good to read your blog sometimes and to know that there is someone out there who thinks (more or less) the same way...

    I hope you have a good job now and can finally earn some big money!

  26. Hi everyone! I'm also a PhD student (half-way to dissertation) and I've finally decided what's best for my self-esteem and my inner peace: to quit. After 1 1/2 years of struggling with myself and feeling more and more depressed, I feel that this is the right step to take, and, the sooner the better. Just the thought of quiting brings a smile to my face...My only concern now is how to do it. I've been on parental leave for 5 months now and I certainly don't want to go (never ever again!) to the department where I worked. I've been in contact with my supervisor under these 5 months; he's a nice person, but he has no idea that I'm feeling, that I've been feeling this bad for so long...The thing is that even is he's a nice person he's still part of that sick work environment that I hate so much...I'm asking you guys: how do I quit? Should I tell him personally or sent a letter explaining some of my reasons to quit...Is there a 'right' way to do this?
    Thanks in advance and good luck to you all!

  27. This blog has been really helpful. I'm currently about to start the second year of my PhD program in the UK, and I seriously considering quitting. I'm at a very prestigious school in the UK, and it's the same school that I did my master's at. Originally, I had struggled with deciding between law school and a PhD. I never wanted to go into academia. I wanted, and still want, to work in politics/government. However, I was lured into my program by the prospect of much less debt than law school and by the prestige of the school. However, my dissertation is a nightmare. I'm having start over from scratch and change my topic now after a year! I have basically spent the last year completely miserable and isolated with very few friends. Despite all of this, I am still reluctant to quit. I know that I should logically look at the year to year and a half as a sunk cost, but I just feel like I wasted so much time. If I quit now, I can't start law school until next fall, which means that two years were wasted! Plus since I already have a master’s degree, I will leave the program with no additional degree. However, by staying in my PhD I feel like I'm dooming myself to another 2-3 years of misery and then I'm going to have a degree that probably won't help me much in my field. I've recently discovered that since I don't want to go into academia that a PhD isn't going to be anymore beneficial than my masters degree, and that a UK PhD is probably going to be viewed as even less valuable than a US PhD (due to the fact that UK degree only takes 3 years). Plus, even though I don’t want to be a lawyer in the traditional sense, I’ve realized that some of the jobs that I would be interested in actually prefer individuals with a law degree. At this point I’m just very unsure. It’s so hard to admit failure and walk away from something like this!

  28. To the above post: I was in a situation very similar to yours. I was in a very prestigious PhD program in the US. But very quickly I discovered that I had zero interest in academia and that life as a PhD student was absolutely miserable. I finally mustered enough courage to call it quits after about a year. It has worked out for me since then. So what I want to say to you is that life doesn't wait for you. You've wasted 1.5 years, and condemning yourself to misery for 3 more years won't change that. Turn around when the damage isn't irreversible yet. If what you want to do is getting a law degree, then you need to get yourself on that track now. You are also correct in assuming that a UK PhD isn't as valuable as a US PhD. I have personally worked with an Oxford PhD who got exactly the same entry-level job in my firm as I got with only a bachelor's. You don't want to find yourself in that position, especially after 5 years of hardwork and misery.

  29. I am a humanities PhD student who is beginning his fifth year and is struggling with reading theoretical scientific materials in abstract languages. My adviser is on the fence about supporting me, as he thinks I'm not working fast enough. But the truth is that I am working harder than he can imagine and I feel like I simply cannot do more. I wish I could change topics or pursue a PhD in a more practical field. I am ready to quit... I'm away in Europe doing research on fellowship for the semester, and I suppose I should finish the semester out. How do you suggest navigating my way out of this program and potentially navigating my way into a new, more practical field such as business or education?

  30. Great site to come across as I purposely sought something of this nature to validate my overwhelming indifference on completing the PhD or not. I'm at the top of game right doctoral student in my program, recipient of National Awards, published several times, just about to take QE's and I'm not interested anymore!! I'm completely through with having interest in this endeavor! Truly...fed up! It seems like a total defecit for me at this point in my life...very anti-climatic - right? But, oddly enough I think it's liberating to be at this place and saying "NOPE" I'm not going to finish...really how different will my life be from how it is now?? not much! I work full-time in my field and teach as an adjunct professor - what will the PhD do for me that I can't do already?? So....I have decided I want my life back! I want to come home from work and enjoy a good movie or a cup of coffee/tea, wine, dinner with friends, cultivate a loving relationship, have a healthy mind and body! It's actually madness to me not to honor those things that are so much more valuable to the core of my truth than this academic intellectual pursuit (driven mostly by ego) to this point...So as I have started to emerge from my cacoon and shed the layers of "stories" I've wrapped myself in for 2 1/2 years now about getting this PhD with such vigor I'm hoping for a beautiful metamorphis into my true self...ahhhh...what love we can give when we honor our truth! So, thank you for the blog as it has validated my inner thoughts and given opportunity to my "voice" for setting free this elusive dream that is not worth chasing is to a wonderful 6 mile walk on a beautiful day that will not be troubled with thoughts of research, exams, or presentations....With Gratitude!

  31. I am in the process of giving up on my PhD. I have been registered for six years, although I've had interruptions of study. I am totally demotivated and I haven't produced much since registering. I am tired, stressed. with a non-existent self-esteem. I am still scared, about quitting, it will mean that I will have to look for another job. I am not exactly in my prime. I have only this weekend to decide, at most, since I am overdue on my deadline. Reading these blogs, though has made me feel a bit less troubled and not alone.

  32. I've already quit my PhD and I'm still living the emotional consequences of it. I don't regret the decision at all. In fact, it's probably the most self-responsible decision I've ever made in my entire life, considering the fact that it was totally irresponsible of me to leave full-time work to do a PhD. I'm just so mad at my self, for getting myself into this mess, wasting 2 years of my life. This whole thing has obliterated my self-esteem, left me bitter, and socially completely withdrawn. When entering the PhD program, I was more or less a normal person. Upon leaving it, I found myself battling major clinical depression. Do I blame anyone else for this? No. That's why I feel so depressed. It is I who is responsible for this reckless decision. I've totally messed up my life. I just wish there was a way to turn back the clock...

  33. Two years is nothing. I know many people who had to quit after 3-6 years in a PhD program. So, in a way, you are lucky.

  34. I am having the same thoughts in the US. I am totally self motivated and well organized to do my dissertation without the help of my advisor. the problem is that my advisor is such a lazy person. for instance, i handed her my dissertation proposal at the begining of this semester and she never edidted it till now. I tried everything to push her to edit my proposal but she keeps delaying it without any reasons. I feel really frustrated. I am very persistant person; i wont be angry of her comments or edits because i can revise my proposal according to her edits. Finally, i realized that she is not confident engough to edit my proposal. she told me she will forward my proposal to another Professor in Korea to edit it. The END.

  35. Thank you. Not just you Alexander, but you.. and you.. and you over there in the cornr - yes I see you lurking there, not quite ready to chime in yet.

    I have not decided whether or not to quit my program yet. My area of studies is humanities related, at a fairly prestigious research 1 university. That. is the just the start of my troubles. I don't want to research, I don't want to become an administrator, and I certainly do not share my faculty and fellow graduate students' views about education. I want to teach. I want it with all of my heart. In 10 days I will graduate with my MA in a field I am thrilled with.

    So what do I have to complain about? Why not just run away?

    In 1 semester I will complete my courses, amd I will be free to leave the campus to work on my comprehensive examinations (a written and oral exam over roughly 200 books). I have my dissertation topic not only picked out, but I have my research lined up, including interviews, documentation, and a plan for writing it - with a MA thesis serving as an 80 page starter document for the project.

    If I leave, I won't feel any great loss. But if I can manage to stay one more semester, I should be able to simply finish the rest of my work on my own time.

    There are some outstanding potential issues I see, maybe you would have some insight, and be kind enough to share.

    First: If I want to go work at a community college, is the PhD going to hurt me - will I be "over qualified" aka too high on the pay scale?

    Second: Once the faculty know I am leaving the campus, will I be written off? I do not fear writing the dissertation, or being able to pass the comprehensive exams. I am absolutely terrified that the department (or certain members in it who have driven me to tears) will torpedo my dissertaion defense 2.5 years from now when I return for that final step.

    Lastly: I'm concerned that my future in HE is already kaputz - because of these same individuals who have decided that my commitment to teaching over research makes me an (direct quote)"embarressment to the department."

    I suppose that signing this Anon is silly. Anyone close to me in the department is going to recognize the details - but I suppose that being willing to post it anyways just points to the heart of my sickness.

    I would rather be nearly anything but dead than be a quitter. But I would rather be a quitter than be apathetic.

  36. wow, i thought i was the only one who has this low self-esteem. Apparently, I am not. Sigh!This phd life is totally crashing my self-confidence too. I constantly feel as a loser and doubt about my ability. I guess it's a good time for me to take a break. Sigh~ don't know how long I could get my confidence back. PhD sucks and those professors suck too.

  37. I am quiting this phd program because the "human reason". The AP that I am working with is sort of competitng with the students. They blame all the fault to the students and take all the good stuff. I am so tired of them. PhD life sucks not only because it's hard, but it's because u have to show off ur-self constant in front of the professors so that they wouldn't make problems. I hate this. Frankly, I have gained 40 lbs after I started the phd program and I found myself losing all my social ability. The worst is that I really hate to be manipulated by other people and live under other people's view all the time. I hate them seriously.

  38. Well I quit my Phd. I came to realize that it just wasn't a healthy responsible thing for me to do any longer particularly as I no longer saw it as leading to opportunities in the future. I was never interested in an academic career and not only had the substantive topic of my thesis ceased to interest me, but unfortunately was too specific to lead into other jobs post PhD. While I had blind faith about the future when I was personally interested and engaged in the topic, I no longer had that idealism and so I could not sustain that optimism in the face of reality. Tough to deal with but the truth.

    After considerable sadness and buckets of tears I have come to realize that it was the right decision. It was not worth sacrificing so many other important parts of my life, and for that matter putting my loved ones through all of this, if I did not honestly have faith that I was on the right path. Academia in general, and the PhD process in particular, is an incredibly isolating experience and in the process I realize that I have put my mental health in danger and have risked losing my true 'self'. I have digressed psychologically and socially through this process and as I am not getting any younger really need to change gears before it is too late.

    On the bright side, I've learned that my life really needs to involve regular interaction with others and that I can not be so focussed so exclusively upon living inside my own head. It needs to involve knowledge and intellect but also needs to be more applied, rather than theoretical (I am presently in a very unstructured Social Sciences program). I guess these are things we have to learn about ourselves.

    Initially I thought I was being cowardly and irresponsible for doing this, whereas now I realize that this is perhaps the bravest and most responsible thing I have ever done. Strangely, nothing would be easier than sliding back into doing my PhD, as that is something that I am all too familiar--and thus comfortable--with could avoid social embarasment, but that would also be to engage in avoidance and longer term misery.

    Instead I have decided to move on and am looking toward applying to a grad program in another field (Urban and Regional Planning). Fortunately I have undergrad training in that field and may be able to apply my Masters credentials (Public Health) to it. However, as I have been away from it for so very long I really need to re-educate myself. This is where the problem lies.

    Despite feeling better and 'right' about my decision my self confidence has been absolutely devastated, my inner voice says, 'what makes you think you can do anything?'. I really worry that my self doubts as a result of my PhD experience will continue to haunt me and as a result have simply considered going out to get a menial job, but then realize I would be selling myself short and ultimately miserable as a result.

    Does anyone have any advice to offer?

  39. I'm four months in to my PhD program in a field that is new to me and that I thought I had a lot of interest in. However, I've been thinking of the benefits on doing the PhD, and frankly, I don't really see any. I want a break. I just want to leave all this behind and find something that I truly enjoy doing. Yes, I feel like I can't do anything at the moment!! All doors seem to be closed! And I haven't even picked a research topic or chosen a lab or major professor yet! Any advice please?


  41. I share this with a heavy heart...

    i wake up, shower go to the lab, see the self-righteous jerks who critisize and gossip everyone and everything to make miniscule sense of their existence and want nothing else than to live off ur demise.

    I prepare my solutions and i take an animal, sacrifice it in "humane" surgical techniques (murder) and remove its brain so that i can carry out bullshit designed experiments to carry on a study that i am convinced has been fabrigated by my predecessors quite simply "just to get on with it"

    my experiments fail due to flawed design and my contributing ideas for improvement are frowned upon and considered as negative thinking/nonsense//not-good enough/patronising laughter.

    i go home failed and defeated and i fight with my girlfriend who also started her phd in the same department so that we can live "the dream and prestige of science" by sharing our lifes together.

    i am miserable, full of hatred and cannot identify who i am anymore, not the guy i look at in the picture i took before i started my phd.

    mental claustrophobia i do not know where to turn.

    i googled "quit your phd" and it brought me here.

    everything you said you and you and you, i can identify with and i feel slightly human again to be able to sit in front of my laptop, without a girlfriend anymore, as an animal murderer who hates himself because i have suicidal thoughts and looking at that picture not recognising anymore...and share this with a bunch of familiar strangers.

    maybe were not cut out for this, maybe we have ideals of how things should be. i don't know, but every fibre in my body is aching me to do something. i must quit, but the social stampede that will consequence from family and friends balances equal on the scale with living in this misery. i sit in the centre of my libra and i fear to move in any direction, just in case either of these nightmares awakens full throttle. i ask myself which nightmare should i live with, the one i'm in now or the one which will occur when i leave this one.

    "you must finished what you started" they say to me.

    thank you for reading

  42. Hi, Im a PhD student in the UK and im feeling exactly the same as everyone on this blog and im only 5 months into my program. I thought it was just me feeling like this because all the other students seem to be happily plodding along with their research, talking stats & figures and what they have acheived but i can't think of anything worse to talk about. I just want to go home, back to a life where i can have a normal conversation with normal people. I found my research area interesting at first, now i can read or write on the subject. Man I need help.

  43. After 1 year i feel so tired i just want to quit, i can't sleep at nights and i can't get good results. Sometimes i feel that i am not so intelligent, tho i have a masters in Artificial intelligence and i had a good Internship at the university of Arizona. sometimes i cry at nights i can't anymore. I am also scared, scared of not finding a job. I feel that i am being destroyed from inside out. I have to make my decision TONIGHT! I want to send an email to my advisor about me leaving. It's enough. The problem is that i feel that i will make my advisor sad cos i failed her :((((. IT's really complicated. like a person said i even think to finish my life it's really hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  44. mk7512:" wake up, shower go to the lab, see the self-righteous jerks who critisize and gossip everyone and everything to make miniscule sense of their existence and want nothing else than to live off ur demise" YOU ARE ABSOLUTLY RIGHT!!! These people make me sick. Sometimes i come late like half an hour and they say:" Oh you are late, ohhh why? oh what time are leaving? why are you leaving? all these stupid questions. And they even ask u, what you are doing? what is your subject? we can't understand what you are Doing!" I look at them and say inside me Why did i put myself into this stupid life. But i am scared like i said before of not finding a good career again :(

  45. Hani,

    I understand everything you are saying and its weird that its going on in every university in the world.

    I told my supervisor yesterday via email and he was really supportive which was nice and reasuring but i still have this sinking feeling when i wake up, a feeling of dred, sadness, i feel trapped, a prisoner. If i stay ill go nuts and if i leave i wont have a good career..what should i do? does a bird in a cage sing a beautiful as a bird who is free? Im also worried about my flat mate who wont be able to continue to afford the flat etc...arh i just want to go home

  46. I just don't know what to do anymore, I'm in my 3rd year and my supervisor left in the first year. She still supervises me, and I have another supervisor in my department. My studies have been directionless. They now have direction, but I can't get my experiments to work on the computer. I felt better at Christmas, and now I just feel awful again. I think I might leave. But then I'll let myself, my boyfriend, my supervisors and so on down. But the flip-side is that I hate it. Every time I have to think about my work I feel nervous, worried, upset, stressed out.

  47. im getting to the point where i don't care anymore..ive finally leaving my phd, dont want to live in pain

  48. I left my PHD TODAY, It's over or shall we say GAME OVER! i want to have a normal life. I am looking for work now. i can't tell any user in here what to do, it's a very hard decision and we all share the same feelings. I am so happy! no more pain!! i'll always visit this blog it's great!
    Good Luck all! please take care of yourself and think before u leave!

  49. Im so happy for you Hani, ive made a step closer to my freedom. I met my supervisor for final talks, he made some valid points but i've made my my mind up and thats to leave..permanent withdrawal.

  50. I have quit my Phd and i feel great. Thank you everyone on here. you saved my sanity.


  51. ok, please help. i'm six years in. i've been unhappy for 5.5 of those years with brief moments of elation and pride and getting so far. i only have a year or two tops left. i know i can do it, but i'm just so bored. i procrastinate like a crazy person.

    the catch is, the career i want to pursue instead is crazy. i have no experience and i've never even done anything like the job so i would be starting from zero and i'm almost 30. i'll probably just do that career once i'm done with the phd. i just can decide if it is worth quitting now. i can just keep trying to barrel through....

  52. hey everyone,

    it's great to hear that others are struggeling too. I am currently trying to find a new topic - for the 3rd time! It seems as if just nothing works out. I thus also thought about quitting. However, looking at other dissertations I know I could do it! Finding the right topic just seems not possible.

    I am in my 3rd year now and feel totally under pressure. After panick attacks I even considered suicide as an option. A psychologist convinced me that this was no valid option.

    At the moment I am sitting here trying to come up with an innovative topic. Instead I am reading this blog and am wondering whether I should just quit.

  53. Hello folks,
    Here I am, at the end of my 11 hour day, still in the office, it's only been 3 months now. I feel ok though, a little lonely at imtes sure but I feel a bit content other than that whichc is a bit rare.

    It seems to me, that a lot of people have problems with PHD's because they have other responsibilities in their lives and maybe coming back from the workforce or whatever. I on the other hand, had no life to begin with and have no real desire to have money and am used to being depressed and feeling overwhelmed and pretty worthless. It's fine, I'm happy enough. When I'm finished I'll be I guess, 27 hopefully. So then I imagine it will be time to grow and gain responsibility and money and a love and social life again. THis for me is awfull, I know my life is shit but it's my only opertunity to do this and it's not costing me any money.It should be stated also I never had any desire to be in academia but I have even less desire to work at a job, I have no expectations if I die at 28 I will not regret the 60 hour weeks, it cannot kill cannot kill me

  54. I AM QUITTING!!!! I feel so so so liberated! People think I'm absolutely nuts for quitting so far in, but I don't care! I should have quit years ago, and I honestly don't think that there is never a bad time to quit your PhD program. Getting a PhD is the most depressing and pointless path if you are not interested in being a professor. I have never felt so isolated and miserable in my entire life. Although I have won several awards from the university for my academic achievements, and I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, etc., etc, the professors in the department treat me like an idiot because I occasionally smile and I am (or rather was) enthusiastic. None of them actually care about investigating interesting ideas or using their knowledge to combat ignorance in the world. They simply spout off the names of theorists like Derrida or Foucault as if they were name brands like Yves Saint Laurent or Chanel. It's always a game of one-up-manship and cultivated mediocracy. My advice to anyone with doubts, is quit now because it's only going to get worse. You may not be able to just "stick it out" because completing the dissertation is an arduous task, and it is very difficult to do if you are not into it.

  55. I hope you don't think that after you get your PhD you will have money, love, and social life.

    Please read and think about what i will tell you, and i am saying it from my heart.I have the best advisor that a person can ever get in teh world. But i had no results and as we all know people in the lab have nothing to do but gossip and make your life shitty, it's so funny i look at them soo happy wearing the LINUX T SHIRT or a tshirt with "I AM A GREAT PROGRAMMER" I look at myself and say God I am with those GEEKS that have no life and have the most lame jokes on earth. And no one helps you, all what they care about is to see u fail and not publish any article. If u publish something they get sooo jealous.
    Anyway i once decided to QUIT after 2 days a guy from the lab came to my place he's a very good person, and he told me Golden words he said:My advisor is soo sad cos i am quitting, he said that PHD is not about results! phd is not how your curve works or you get 90% accuracy and those silly stuff. PHD is about YOU, THE INSIDE OF U, HOW YOU ENDURE, it teaches you how to be strong in LIFE. it teaches you how to have patience, it's really a WAR, when u finish it and look behind you, u will say and u will feel that u are a great PERSON! PHD is not for everyone, each one of US in here knows that! don't look at what the other say, those geeks those lame people that have no life. EVEN ON FACEBOOK they talk about the articles and their programming lol.
    But please from the bottom of my heart DON'T LEAVE!!!!! don't leave the PHD! Even if u can't sleep even if u are tired. We are human beings and we will suffer! that's life! but we will be happy in the end!
    What is more better than working in college? being a professor or a reseacher! wearing what ever you want! Don't be sad if u don't get results! find another solution! in the end there is always a way trust me!
    You know, what will u do? what will u say to yourselves? you will say that u wasted 2 years, 3 years? you think that it's easy to waste 2 years of your life? you think that it's easy to find WORK??? We go to College we get our money every month. But we don't look at the companies that are kicking their employees! right or wrong? please correct me if i am wrong!
    After u get your PHD u will find a better work! be sure PHD is a good investment!
    And then suppose that u quit! WHO CARES!! THEY WILL TAKE YOUR JOB AND CLAIM IT AS THEIR OWN! DO YOU WANT THAT? all your suffering will go to someone else! i wont accept that. They will get another guy and give him the PHD in 1 year, all your work will go in the air. NO!!!
    In the end i felt so happy that i came back, my advisor welcomed me with a warm heart she's very good. Please Don't QUIT! We are all clever we are all better than those people that annoy us in the lab! we are far better human beings! Even if we suffer, trust me we will win in the end!! I will remind you after 1 year from now :)
    I finish in 1 year. Take care all of you! Please don't QUIT I BEG U!

  57. Hi All,

    I hvae completed almost 9 months and I feel like mot of you. I want to quit but the problem is I will feel shame on me because I faile to finish it. I am stressed and please any one ha an advicse to get free of this stress.

    thank you all

  58. Hi All,

    I moved to London from the north-east to take up an RA post, and as part of this I do my PhD. I am two months in, and I hate it. I am not doing work on the project to which I applied, which tells me that the job advert was just a way for my supervisor to get funding for a project he wanted me to do. I am in Psychophysics, a field that is relatively new to me, and I feel swamped, which had never happened to me before, I have always been able to turn my attention to whatever I have been given and learn it. However, I have no idea what I am doing, and am afraid that if I carry on, I will end up deeper and deeper in a hole I can't crawl out of. I feel bad for 'letting my supervisor down', as the department has paid for me to go to a conference in Florida in May, although I wouldn't suppose they would miss the money. The amount of money they get in grants is ridiculous. I am literally paying taxes, from which the government donate money to universities, which is ultimately paying my wages.

    I have no interest in talking to the people in my office, who turn everything around to vision science, for example, the new Apple ipad, or the iphone, and I share no interests with them as they all seem to love what they do. I share and office with people from the animal lab upstairs, and I can't stand to hear when they come in and say, oh, I did this, the mouse died, etc. I used to think that what I was doing was worthwhile, but now I just think it is a means to an end. I don't care enough about money to be stuck in a research career forever. Even if I did complete my PhD, I wouldn't want to do this at the end. Surely there is more to life than research that, quite frankly, is meaningless. I did this PhD because I thought it was what I wanted, not because I had nothing else to do, but now I've realised a PhD is not for me.

    I get up, commute to work for an hour, work, commute home for an hour, go to the gym, shower, eat, and go to bed by 10:30pm. I have made no friends in London, because I don't have time, and if I did, wouldn't have time to hang out. My boyfriend is back in the states applying for a post-study work visa so he can move here to work. Which partly makes me want to stay in London. And if I don't have this job, which pays well, how will I live? I miss my friends, my family, my boyfriend, and being at this job just makes me miserable all the time.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Is two months too early to quit? Even though all the work I am doing goes straight over my head?

    What should I do?!

  59. Hi,
    I think that it is a bad idea to quit simply because you don't like the people in your program / office. It is very likely that if you work outside academia, you will still meet some weird people and have to work with them. Before making the decision to quit, I think you need to come up with more convincing reasons to support the decision. It could be that you are no longer interested in your field of study or don't see yourself working as a researcher in the future. These could be convincing reasons to quit. Then, you need to have a feasible plan of what you are going to do after quitting. If you don't have a clear idea yet, you can try using job search engines and read the job descriptions posted there. You may have some new ideas of what you want to do after quitting. If you have a supportive family, talk to them. Maybe they can give you some advice since they should know your strengths very well.

    I quit my PhD before discovering this blog. I left my program because the entire university was in financial trouble. I posted my experience of leaving the program some time ago and I am still happy about my decision now, partly because the university is still in a difficult financial condition. I do not feel shameful but I do feel insecure sometimes, especially right after quitting and when I have to explain to family friends of what happened. Most of them understand my situation because they know about the university's financial trouble from the news.
    So, I don't think that you have to feel shameful as long as you quit based on very convincing reasons and have a back-up plan. How others view your decision depends a lot on how you present the case to them. It's better to save yourself time, move on, and explore other career paths.

    I don't see PhD as a war. To me it is simply part of my journey to explore my interests, talents and career paths.

  60. I have felt the same way the moment I registered for classes. But I have never quit anything in my life. While I am not in debt and have enough money to survive I do feel repressed, with low self esteem. I feel I can't do good work. I feel that just by being in a PhD program so much more is expected and I don't feel I will ever be in that level. This is my second semester. I keep thinking, "maybe next semester will be better". What I would really like is to do a complete 180 and go into another career. But come on, how the heck am I supposed to do that. It feels as if I just get deeper and deeper into a hole. I wish I had read this blog before accepting the phd. Now I have to really think about what I want and how to get it and what consequences I will have to live with. Phd is stressfull, and this is barely my second semester. Good thing is we're not alone. Maybe this will give us courage to do what is best for ourselves.

  61. So glad I came across this blog. Thank You Alexandar. Good to see that I am not alone, especially needed this today, feeling very confused and dejected. oh, BTW I am into my 4th year, finished my QEs, have a publication. Right now I cannot be sure if I am scared of all the work that is left, or if I am just not right for this. So confused.

  62. Hey...Hmmm....I also quit my DPhil recently...I couldnt adjust to England, so I will restart a PhD somewhere else. I am not sure how it feels yet, but I know I was exhausted and crying all the time...and at somepoint, it's not worth it anymore!

  63. You are hungry for life which is a good engine for success, the best words i have heard since the time I registered for the phd program.Gave me hopes that phd is not the end of the world and my thoughts of quitting phd and going back to a monotonous job with less intelligent and worthy supervisors in research is not a bad idea rather than sticking for another 3 years

  64. I'm a 4th year doc student in the US, quitting after this year. I don't feel that the past 4 years was a total loss...I learned a lot about myself, how grad school works, how to deal with other people, etc. I guess that I was also fortunate in the sense that my life was not on hold while in school; I traveled, married, and had a kid all during the past 4 years. But what I really learned is that I don't like this field and don't want to do this kind of work.

    I'm actually not anti-PhD. In fact, I still want one, just in a different field. It seems stupid to everyone I've talked to, but I plan to enter a new PhD program in a year once I've had some time to regroup. I am the type of person who gets enthusiastic about hours of reading, writing, and research (yes, a bona fide nerd). So I think I could do the PhD as long as it is in the right field.

    My advisor was a total jerk when I told him my decision. He said I'm flaky and don't know what I want, and then went on to predict that I will "fail" in my next program too. At the same time, he was telling me how if I'd "just finish" this degree I would be a real asset to the field. Mind you, "just finishing" involves 2-3 more years of soul-deadening work I'm not interesed in. I don't think he'll be a good source of recommendation letters for my next program. Nonetheless, I'm determined to try this again and hopefully get it right the second time around.

    I'm glad I'm leaving because it gives me a chance to pursue what I really want. I've learned to be wary of settling for what others tell me is the most practical course of action; in the end it costs more in mental health than it does even in time or money!

  65. I think there is a difference betweeen wanting to leave in the first six months and then wanting to leave 2 or 3 years later.

    I HAVENT met ANY PhD student that hadn't thought about quitting on the first year. Quitting thoughts at these stage are particularly normal (although they will most likely remain in our darkest hours trough the grad school).

    I'm starting my second year in Uk and I do have these feelings of quitting, despite of my supervisor (advisor) being really supportive. I do have a social life here, even a bigger one than the one I used to have at home. Yet I literally have to drag myself out of the bed to come to the office. I don't want to work hard or even try to do it, a proof of that is that I have a deadline to meet in 2 hours, I haven't done much yet and I am spending my time on PhD-quitting commentaries!! I am thinking on quitting but is hard to do as I would be giving away a really good scholarship plus family premises saying "you must finished what you started". I think this is debatable, for example if you started crashing a vase in to the wall you should be crashing everything you find on the table? You have to finish what you started right?

    I'm just a human being for God's sake!!!

  66. I am in the process of quiting after 2.5 years. Graduate school has destroyed my self-esteem, derailed my career, and loaded me with close to $100,000 of debt. I now find myself in daily battles with clinical depression. I've isolated myself to avoid being judged and have no social life. I live under constant stress and worry about the future all the time. I'm in my very late 20's, and I feel that I've done irreversible damage to my life. WHAT CAN I DO?

  67. I'm the above poster, and I'm beginning to contemplate suicide. Anyone had similar experience? Why did I ever get myself in this mess by going to graduate school? It's too late for me to realize now that graduate school only makes senses for Chinese and Indians to get green cards.

  68. Don't be so hard on yourself. Of course, graduate school can mess you up. But things are not as bad as you think. Look, some people fought in Vietnam, sustaining all kinds of psychological and physiological injuries. And yet they managed to come back to normal life. Many people have to go through set-backs like this.

  69. Quitting a PhD is actually beneficial to your career (unless you want to stay in academia). I have worked for many companies that reject PhD applicants because they are 'over qualified'. Most companies are unwilling to hire applicants with PhDs because they are seen as too specialist and likely to move on to a more specialist job after a few months. Since advertising for jobs and recruiting then training new staff is expensive and time consuming, they will be unwilling to hire an overqualified person who might only stay in the job for a few months.

    Doing a PhD is the wrong thing to do if you want to have job security.

  70. theellewoodsofgradschoolMarch 25, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    oh my gosh, I'm literally in tears as I read this. I was accepted to a top graduate history program in the US this fall, and I've never been so miserable in my entire life. despite the prestige of the university and my professors, I can't help but feel horribly inadequate, like their admissions decision with me was a big, fat mistake. And yet, I'm a summa cum laude graduate from a Big 10 school...where do they get off instilling such a sense of personal despair in students? The most distressing part of quitting graduate school is that I feel like a failure. And I've never failed at ANYTHING in my whole life quite like this. Leaving the PhD program amidst an economic recession feels like jumping into the ocean with both hands tied behind my back, but I don't know know how much farther I can possibly fall at this point.

  71. History jobs are very hard to find. You may be doing yourself a big favor by quitting

  72. I think the best time to do a PhD is when we are retired.

  73. This is a very consoling blog. I am having similar thoughts (early-mid 20s, 2nd year).

    However, my dad (who did a PhD with the OU over 5 years whilst working full time in his 40s) went to his supervisor in the 4th year and said that he really wanted to quit. After telling him that he was crazy, the supervisor said 'If you don't want to quit then you are not doing it right.'

    And with that my dad carried on working hard until completion.

    My dad regrets that his research was not original or pioneering. He had no publications to show for it. In addition to this, it has not really changed his life in any major way. I'll not go into too many details but he has a well-paid job in higher education (not lecturing, management). He was on the path into this career before that & his boss employed him because of the qualities that he brought to the dept through having a distinctive BA (hons).
    He isn't allowed to call himself doctor at work.

    As his daughter, I am very proud that he completed his PhD. It is a badge of his character as a hard-working, resilient person. Had he quit that day, his life would probably be the same, but he went on and completed, which is inspiring all the same.

  74. The story above is typical case of a religious attitude towards education: "Had he quit that day, his life would probably be the same, but he went on and completed, which is inspiring all the same". Sounds like "He didn't stop going to church even though it was of no value and pastor was a jerk. He kept attending it because its good to attend church. He is proud he didn't quit attending church despite all the sacrifices he had to make". Or "He kept believing that Good is kind though his daughter and wife died in an accident". Not saying there's something wrong with religion, but it's something that is different from science. Yet people who are trained to be scientists often have an irrational leap of faith towards eduction.

  75. I am a second year PhD who will get a MS in public admin. and policy to add to my MBA. I can't tell you how much I have hated the last two years of my life, yet I am still having a hard time drafting the letter to my advisor about quitting. Thanks for the blog I am hoping for a full recovery from the extended period of paralyzing self doubt.

  76. I just graduated from a PhD program. I agree that you should go for a PhD only if you want to stay in academia. But if you want to stay in academia, you'd better go to a top graduate school and get a well-known professor as your advisor.

    Academia involves too much politics to believe, especially today. In the end of the day, you will realize that most scientists are doing research not for what they had hoped for, but for survival because they have no choices any more with that "charming" PhD.

    All in all, ONLY people who want to stay in academia go to PhD program. Among these people, ONLY those who go to the top PhD programs AND get the best advisors will say a PhD degree is valuable. Good luck!

  77. Just sent in the form to withdraw from my program as an ABD in my fifth, yes fifth year!. It was a long process of going back and forth and finally saying goodbye, but now that I have done it feel incredibly free despite the uncertainty. Probably because the uncertainty can also be exciting, whereas there would only be the innevitability of sadness and dread if I stayed...just one big black endless hole. Also thought it would be tough to get rid of my many books, articles etc, but as I do it today it feels great. I think it was the anticipatory anxiety about doing this that was worse, which is always much worse than simply doing it,

  78. Come to think of it, I think all of the stuff we amass, like books, articles etc., begin to become a symbol of the investment we have put into our PhD and as a result support our rationale to continue on, despite the fact that it may be a bad and lost investment...a more complex form of holding on to things simply for the sake of holding on to them, whereas finally getting rid of them, despite initial resistance, is truly liberating and allows us to fill the space with new thought, ideas, aspirations, as there are no objects to trigger the cognitive schemas that relate to our phd and subconciously cause us to think that there is no reality outside of it...but I digress...

  79. I am in my fourth year of a doctoral program in psych. I have been through utter hell in this program. Self doubt, weight gain, isolation, depression, self esteem issues, everything. I hate the faculty reviews of students, feels like all they do is talk about you and pick at your flaws. They never uplift you..never. I am thinking of taking a year off, but Im afraid. I live out of state, and returning would be having to move everything back. Also, becase I am four years in, would it look bad if I went to another program to get a second masters degree?

    If you leave a doctoral program 4 years in, and you receive a masters along the way from that program, and the transcript stills says things like doctoral project, doctoral intersnhip, etc. If you apply to other grad schools in an unrelated field, will the other grad schools hold that against you?

    Do I need a letter of rec from the psych dept to be able to apply to other masters programs?

    Im afraid that I wont get into another masters program with them knowing that I dropped out of my doctoral program in psych.

    Please help!

  80. Im glad so many people feel the same. Im 18 months into my Phd and I don't even get out of bed anymore. I don't see the point in going to the office because I don't have anything to do other than think about what to do :s I had a great life in China and left it all to come home and do a Phd. I've lost my girlfriend and just think about the past and wish I never left. I don't want to quit though because it would seem like everything was for nothing. At the same time I can't see any point in continuing. I am a great programmer and would have been a good asset to a company. I wanted to work on something big and meaningful but instead I've converged on and idea that I dont even think is important or entirely useful(but its the only contribution I could think of after 18months) I really feel like I'm in limbo and Im losing everything that made me who I was. I just feel worthless now :'( I dont know if I should go for councelling or something... Just needed to get that off my chest as noone knows nor cares how I feel

  81. Well, I may as well add to this. I am two years in. I completed a MS before starting the PhD. It has pretty much crushed me. I wish that I never started. I wish that I had just picked up a second MS to further specialize and moved on with it. I have a good publication track record and I teach courses. From the outside I look together, but this two years has reduced me to rubble. I am now on antidepressants and antianxiety medication. With the meds I think that I will be able to pull through this. Is it worth it? Hell no. I am sticking to this and have been sticking to this to avoid the stampede of social humiliation that will ensue from quitting. Quitting is the brave thing.

  82. To the first response after mine, no it is not impossible to do a master after a phd provided you craft a reasonable explanation as to why your interests changed. This would mean explaining why you feel this new masters was better suited to your interests, and even peppering it with some type of revelatory power that corresponds to the new topic helps..e.g., "I saw that this was how I could have a true impact" me, I have seen it done! Besides if you are even contemplating another masters, I am assuming that you have an interest in something else which would clearly allow you to craft such an explanation.

    To the second poster, if you really enjoyed working as a programmers what is stopping you from going back to that? That is, after you have talked to someone and given this some thought, particularly if you think that there is a reasonable chance that you would be albe and willing to finish the phd in the next couple of years. If there is a reasonable chance to finish and you think you could get motivated enough to finish it may be worth it, but on the other hand you are actually at the point that you could limit your lost investment to a fraction of the amount of time that most phds spend in the program before bailing. You are actually on the bubble of what they suggest is the best time to quit if you are going to quit.

    Finally, to the third poster, your words are heartbreaking to me. I guess you have to ask yourself whether you see things being any different if you finished your phd and went on to academia, which appears to be the path you are on given how well published you are. In any event it appears as though you may have already decided to soldier on. Best to all of you!

  83. Hello there. I am only 10 weeks into my PhD in the UK and am absolutley certain that I have made a huge mistake. I left a reasonably well paid job with a company in my field, convinced that I would prefer research. I have made no new friends in my department, I already feel completely out of my depth with the work and generally dislike the working environment. I also find my supervisor unapproachable and meetings so far have been awkward. I feel very isolated and most days I just sit around wondering what I'm doing there. I cannot possibly see myself sticking this out for 4 more years as I don't think my enthusiasm for the topic is strong enough to get me through, and the prospect of working in academia no longer appeals to me. I have never felt anything like this in previous jobs and I want to quit already. I feel like a complete waste of space and am dreading the prospect of telling supervisors, friends and family. Sorry to rant but I need to get this off my chest. I'm pretty sure that I will quit in the next day or two but it's going to leave me feeling guilty and with lower self esteem than I've ever had. I just wish I had made a more informed decision when I chose to do a PhD and leave my old job. Sorry again for such a negative post but I know some of you have had similar experiences.

  84. Hello all,

    I'm so glad that I found this blog. I am in my fourth year and am miserable. I tried to quit last year (and took some time off) but was talked back into it. Now, last week, I told my husband that I wanted to quit, really!! And he was totally supportive. I'm just so stressed out and I'm not happy. I should add that I am 49 and have two teenagers. The thing is, I figured out that I don't want to stay in academia and I just don't have the motivation to finish. I got a call from my supervisor and she wants me to (again) reconsider. I'm so conflicted but I can tell you that when I made the decision to leave, it felt like a huge weight was off of my shoulders. I actually didn't think that I would find such a site as this--any comments on my situation--seeing as many of you feel the same way? I just feel like I need closure and instead I'm in a holding pattern.

  85. This collection of comments is simply amazing. I have been through all of them, one by one, and could see pieces of myself in each and every one of your lines.

    I am 17 months in, and still, the memory of Day 1 is as fresh as today's. I was taken to my office, and when alone, I looked around me and burst into tears. The following is not aimed to impress any posting here as many will have track records akin to mine, i.e., I received my MSc at 23 scoring a solid 96% of the highest mark, received an award, while at the same time nurtured a feeling that nothing could resist me, if not even myself. Dreams topped on every scale. Now the clock, ticking, every second steadily raising this awkward feeling of emptiness. Pain? Isolation? These are the early symptoms of this one of a kind discomfort. And although new, you know it's not just a passing fancy.

    It is an open prison with no cell but your brain and your ego and its past ambitions for sole director, with the exception that the ambitions are now long gone. "You think too much! You think too much! Now focus." are any of these words familiar to you? Perhaps the following, take your stand 3 months ago and compare it with today's. Fit a curve, say, a line --a bloody regression-- since you no longer believe in quadratic progress, not even to mention exponential, however you wouldn't pick logarithmic either. Now estimate what a reasonable progress to start writing up your thesis should be and read off the expected graduation day: 128 years, ±2%.

    What should I do? What should you do? I cannot tell. Every story is independent. I never considered quitting the phd as an idea, but perhaps this very phd? And I firmly believe that there is no faith but what we do, and what we do is not be mistaken for what we are. In the end, what we truly care for is being happy, happy as can be.

  86. Isolated. Depressed. Frustrated. Feel unappreciated. Aimless.

    Imperial College - depressing and cold work environment. No one gives a fuck, generally antisociable blanking culture, i.e. zero culture/humane atmosphere, unhelpful neglectful supervisors who disguise neglect as "expecting you to work independently". Surrounded by some weirdos.

    Seven months. Been through plenty of cycles of demotivation and attempting to relight the flame. Getting stupid now. I think if it needs relighting that regularly it really ain't there.

    In later time I may consider applying for a PhD elsewhere - still don't believe that I've lost interest in science, but what I have realised is that THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE WORKPLACE IS KEY TO ME. DESPITE BEING A GUY WHO IS NOT PARTICULARLY SOCIABLE (I like the occasional chat, acknowledging people and being acknowledged, sharing the same kinds of goals, being able to talk about it), I MUST WORK IN A NICE, SOCIAL, COMMUNAL ENVIRONMENT WHERE I FEEL I BELONG. I feel no belonging here.

    I don't believe that such an environment is the best for nurturing potential and stimulating motivation. I've heard different things about Oxford - a friend there says his group and supervisor have coffee daily, get on well, and only talk work when its absolutely necessary. Doesn't sound like the PhD has taken over his entire life.

    Remember the Einstein quote about working. I'm sure his environment was not like this. use leading with our chins...
    this is where the story ends...

  87. I'm 30 years old Phd student with no work experience. I have wasted more than three years without progress. I never felt like a part of academia. I always felt the topic I chose wouldn't work but my qualifications would not help me with finding a job so I never quit and kept procrastinating...
    Now I'm about to be sacked. I always hated to see my supervisor.. Even I dont check my emails for days not to read her message.. It is not because he is mean or anything.. I just cann't bear to think myself as a phd student. People has expectations from are supposed to be an expert on the subject... yet I dont even know what my thesis is all about.. I lock myself in the house and avoid people who can ask me what my phd is about. I hate the question 'how's phd going?' I always hated to discuss my thesis with anyone including my supervisor.. I hated the idea of presenting a paper..going to conferences etc.
    I'm asocial, unsuccessful, inexperienced and broke. Moreover, there isn't anyone who can be my referee for future career. When applying for a vacancy, how can I justify my failure in the Phd? I cann't just remove it from my CV because it's not just one or two years...How bad could it be? I wish I never started the phd. My advice to you is to quit as soon as you can if you have any doubts...

  88. I really find it strange and weird that everyone here is dissing PhD programs or the possibility of sticking through one. Some professors even have blogs talking crap about PhDs. But this is what society has come to and it has brain-washed people into thinking money is everything and you should therefore judge your PhD based on what it will bring you financially later. I came onto this website because I am contemplating changing my PhD albeit for a very different reason. I love the subject and I get along well with my group members, but I just feel that I should be learning much more. Have you people considered what it would be like to judge a PhD based on how much you actually learn in it? Rather than on how cool your coworkers are or how good the job prospects may be?

    If you started off in your PhD only for the sake of getting a degree for a better pay, then you deserve any confusion you have right now. The only reason was must start a PhD is if they have passion and curiosity to learn more about a certain field and to become well-versed in the topic such that they can contribute in the form of original research. Anyone in a PhD program with a different set of goals is devalue-ing the PhD path as grad schools become filled with inadequate PhD students and their huge numbers make our pay even lesser than it already is...

  89. I agree with your description of an ideal Phd student but you have to make living too. And it is the truth that some phd students start a Phd because simply they have no other reasonable choice ie no desirable vacancies available for months or years... So why not try academia?

    If you ask people, most of them would say they are not happy with the job they do. So it is not suprising that many phd students feel that way too.. That is all because people have to stick to a career path, not because they enthusiastically choose to do so. No matter whatever you say, at the end of the day it is more reasonable to be a phd student than being Mc Donalds employee. Ok.. at least for a while..

  90. Thank you all for sharing. I'm very depressed now. I was actually crying when I was reading these because I could see myself in you. I keep asking myself why did I get myself into this and now after 6 years (got a MA degree in another major in between, both degrees in humanities), I'm stuck with a dissertation to write, which no normal person will read. Sometimes I want to kill myself, but I don't want to put my parents and brother (and my landlord) through pain. My friends from school are moving forward so much ahead of me in their careers and I don't want to face it because I used to be the smart one and was more promising than any of them. I'm (un)fortunate to be very creative and pretty talented in music and arts, but for financial and visa reasons (I'm an international student), I can't pursue my dream to be a filmmaker and a visual artist, doing things I'm passionate about and excel at. The more I stay in academia, the more I hate its self-importance, hypocrisy, and politics; my parents are academics and I thought I knew it all but no. Most of the time I don't enjoying teaching either. I have no motivation to do anything and hate myself for being a weak and useless loser. And did I tell you that I'm 31 and my relationships with men never lasted long because I'm such a weirdo grad student who's always busy and obsessed with useless things. I hate being a selfish and egoistic misanthrope -- notice I've been using "I" a lot? That's wrong! But when most of my time is spent by myself with books, papers and anxiety, it's hard develop interest in normal people. I used to be very sociable, caring, and engaged. This is hell for me.

    But still, I'll finish it. I'll prove it to myself that I can finish what I started. To those of you who decide to quit, you have my full support. I wish the best for you. Good luck!

  91. Hey guys! I know it is painful. But remember this: pain, no matter how vicious it is, passes with time. I had a lot of pain in my PhD program. Then I had a year of happiness. Now I have pain again (my girlfriend dumped me, lol). So life is like that, like it or not

  92. Thank you for posting your comments. It lifted my spirits. I finished my masters 1.5 years back. Couldnt find a job I was looking for (Research Oriented). So I continued with the PhD. I have been in the program for the past 9 months. I finished my qualifying but havent published any paper so far. Things have changed alot in this 9 months. I studied hard for classes. Did some work in the lab along with the other guys. Had fun with my other friends. was always motivated and was sure I will be able to finish it soon (in 2-3 years). I always wanted to do great research. And GREAT RESEARCH is not easy. sitting 15 hours a day all alone is affecting me psychologically. I am getting depressed more often. My work is less appreciated. I get paid less. Broke up with my GF. On top its even hard to find a job looking for a job after finishing my PhD. I think this is not what I want. I cannot struggle after finishing the degree. I want to work on interesting projects. And PhD is not a requirement for that. So, I am quitting.

    My Supervisor is a good person, he funded my tuition and fellowship for 1 year. I feel guilty and I feel I have cheated him. But I have to do it to make myself feel better.

    I will talk to my Supervisor in an hour and update our conversation later.

    Thank you somuch. All this helped me.

  93. here is the conversation:

    me: excuse me prof

    him: come in

    me: I want to talk to you about something

    him: sure, go ahead

    me: Due to family financial problems, I wouldnt be able to work full time. I want to work for a while and come back to school later or do it part time.

    him: so, your are quiting?

    me: No prof, I just want to work. I want to do it part time.

    him: in PhD there is a bottle neck, most ppl have problem passing through this. You are right at this point. You r almost a the verge of getting your paper out. You will be able to do it.

    me: I am not quiting yet. I can do it part time.

    him: Thats not easy.

    me: stayed quite.

    him: you are quiting, i know. Anyways its your call, you dont have to ask me. do what you would like to do. Let me know if you want to quit. I have to manage the funds, assign your class to someone else.

    me: sure prof, thank you

  94. lastly, I suggest people to continue if they are completely driven with research. If not, please dont do it. After all there are millions of ppl without a PhD. there is nothing to be embarrassed. I am happy my friends and family liked my decision as they want me to spend more time with them. DO WHATS BEST FOR YOURSELF.... Cheersssssssss

  95. Here in the US... I am in a PhD program to obtain a PhD in Education with a concentration in Organizational Psychology & Performance Improvement. I am driven! I have focus! I am just afraid if I stop (due to family pressure) I will never complete it in the future.

    If I take a knee right now... I fear I will never be able to get back in the game. The goals I have set for myself are high. But how can I tell my sons that they can obtain their goals if I do not show them how?

    I have about a year and a half left until I finish. My thing is... that there is and never will be that "perfect time" to do anything. I am just disappointed in what seemed to be full support when I started, and now has turned into frustration.

    Not really sure what to do!

  96. This is the best site that I've found and that too at the right time...I have thought about all the things that have been discussed here (except the taking the life thing..I feel thats a bit over the board)
    I left a completely perfect life in the "outside- world" to follow a fantasy of doing a PhD and making the world a better place....well I was wrong!!..I am only 3 weeks into this mess and I feel that this is the biggest mistake that I have ever done.
    I left a well paid job, a nice car, a beautiful apartment, my family and friends to a foreign country where I don't know anyone.
    I don't consider myself to be a very social person, but I can never go for more than 2 hours without talking to anyone. And this is killing me over here.
    My supervisor is a good person, he is quite approachable and arranged for my funding and all...but still I feel that these resources are being wasted on me becoz I clearly have lost the motivation and am wasting both my time and his.

    So I think, I'll call it a day...see the country and go back and try to get my old life back.

    The fact is I am not the PhD material....

    Now the hard part is ... how do I convince them to let me go... Any suggestions in this department please let me know.

  97. I just quit my PhD today and I feel lighter all ready.

    Just need to try and be "normal" from now and I hope things will be just fine...

  98. I am seriously thinking about quitting PhD after 4 years. I am at the stage of dissertation but have no motivation left to complete it. Studying for classes was the easy part. You just study what they tell you and pass the classes. Doing the research is a serious job since you have to be passionate about your topic. Because whenever you experience some trouble during the process of research you shouldn't easily give up.
    So why did I stayed this long? Because I was too weak and listened other's opinions instead of mine. My parents and friends insisted me to stay and told me that I would not find any job if I quit after qualifying for masters degree. I was afraid since there was a serious financial crisis. Now I really don't know whether I should continue or not but the option of quitting gives me an instant relief :) time will show what is best for me and I will update my status then

  99. Today, I left my program. I completed comprehensive examination some years ago and have toiled at the dissertation dreaded ABD phase for years. I only wish I had seen this earlier. At this point I am trying to simply save my sanity and health. I googled quitting phd and it led me here and I see so many others like me. I dont need these 3 letters to have a career, I already have that. It was a brass ring that someone else chose for me that I dont want. Today, I take first step to reclaiming my life. I hope I know how.

  100. I have not laughed in a long time...

    reading about our common misery made me realize that i should gibve it another 3 moths and quit if no break through!

    I came in confident and a bit arrogant... Did not fail to listen to people, but maybe did not ask the right questions. Did not have a good enough research design before starting my data collection. Now I am dreading betraying my supervisor and the company that trusted me and financed my PhD. The reality is that I am miserable, but will give it another try and see.

    Gob Bless you all.

  101. I am currently ABD and in the 5th year of my PhD program. My problem is not that I don't think I can do the work. For me, that's the easy part. My problem is a lack of faculty support. My academic advisor used me to get tenure then after she made tenure, she has bascially stopped helping me. I've never written a dissertation before so naturally, I need help and direction. Her approach to direction is "call me if you need anything" but when I call her or arrange a meeting she is basically like, "hey, do whatever you want." I feel like this is either a passive agressive attempt to sabotoge my research or she really doesn't care to help me finish. There really isn't another person in my department to head my research so I'm basically screwed. Right now, I'm torn. I feel like I can just bang out my diss. but there are people working behind the scenes against me to ensure that I never finish.

    Also, I've decided that I really don't like the publish or perish enviornment of academia and all I really want to do is teach and work closely with students. I view myself as an educator first and a researcher second; but like many of you, I don't like to quit anything and so it's hard to walk away. Also, financially I'm broke, I've given up 5 years of my life for something that is not working out, and I don't like what is behind the OZ curtain. I'm not sure how to proceed... any suggestions???

  102. Anon,

    I would finish up the dissertation if I were you. I know other students who have horrible absentee advisors. What these students have done is find other faculty that will unofficially direct their research. Do you think this will be an option in your case? For example, find a junior faculty member that will give you feedback and guidance that is interested in your work. It sounds like you are going to have to give up on getting any help from the prof.

  103. I'm so glad to find this blog. I'm in 2.5 year after the master. Research was always my dream. But my PhD make feel like a idiot. I want only to give up. I go to a psychology since one year. That has helped. However, the most important question is: is it worth so many sacrifices just to have three letters "PhD". Life is much more than that. A person doesn't have to be defined by the titles. I still have not been able to answer that question.

  104. 3 years into my PhD in computer science, I decided earlier this summer to quit, and this blog helped put my mind at ease when I was weighing all the pros and cons of continuing/quitting. I found it by googling "thinking about quitting phd" or something like it. :)

    I never felt like I fit in with the program or the people, I don't like the area where I live, and I considered quitting on two previous occasions. In fact for the first two years, every time I left to visit family, I didn't want to come back. But after finding an adviser in a new research field, I got a bit of motivation and stayed on for a third year, trying to get myself up to speed with a new body of literature. On paper, I had a good deal: An energetic adviser with plenty of funding and a very active field of research (graphics) that would lead to opportunities in industry as well as academia. I produced one small publication last year, and this summer was my chance to really push ahead with research. But my motivation was short-lived. All the "on-paper" advantages couldn't outweigh the fact that I just didn't care about the research. I had a good story to tell people about why the research was interesting, but it dawned on me that I'd been feeding myself lines, and a career doing this wasn't really what I wanted. I could go back to having no adviser and no field, but I decided that instead, this would be a good time to quit.

    I must say, this summer was very discouraging. Having failed to get any work done, I felt lazy and useless, and felt that I'd let my adviser down. I worried that quitting my PhD would just be taking the easy way out, and that I just needed to suck it up and force myself to work harder. With pressure from my adviser to make a decision, I opted to make a change, figuring that if I didn't quit now, I'd only be delaying the inevitable. I've never felt right about being in this program and I don't like the bitter, low-self-esteem person I've turned into. As soon as I made the decision to quit, I felt happier.

    I don't have a clue as to what I'm going to do next, but in the meantime I'm crossing the t's and dotting the i's to get a master's degree. Actually to get the degree I have to write an essay, and it's pretty open-ended so I'm writing it on a topic that I was interested in coming in but sort of steered away from. Now I'm finding I'm still interested in it and I'm actually really enjoying reading and writing about it. Don't get me wrong; I'm still glad to be leaving and giving my life a bit of a reboot, but it's VERY refreshing to be reminded that I haven't totally lost my passion for all the things that sparked my interest as a college student, and it reinforces that quitting graphics was the right decision, because I never felt that passion. If life in the real world doesn't work out, I can always return to grad school, but right now, I don't want to waste any more of my 20's.

    By the end of September I'll be done, and I'm hopping in my car and driving cross-continent to my hometown and going from there.

  105. Positive thoughts people....

    Everyone has this crisis, i feel mine is akin to a drowning anxiety, such thoughts do pop up periodically every few months. The only difference between me quitting and moving on is i know how to swim through uncertainty, keep focused and tough.

    From my experience most academics are real bored and frustrated wanks - immature, little emotional intelligence, self-absorbed, can be decieving/liars, etc. but you will only stoop to these levels if you choose to play that game. I have no interest in that - i do whatever interests me, work my own hours, am employed, surf whenever it pumps, and work on a phd.

    I would suggest if you have supervisor problems, SEEK A NEW ONE IMMEDIATELY (+ express to degree co-ordinators why), talk to your friends for outside opinons, and dont get to absorbed (this is a phd, not a nobel prize). Also, if the project doesnt interest you then you will find motivation difficult. Regarding money, if you are paying top dollars for enrolement and are still disgruntled, cut your losses asap.

    Finally, confidence seems to be the underlying issues within most blogs i read, YOU ARE NOT STUPID or you wouldn't be doing this at all. Have faith and self-belief. If you are not having such mixed emotions then you are probably a government cyborg. IT IS NATURAL TO QUESTION, IGNORENCE KILLS!

    Bottomline, the degree gives you a massive reflection period to assess your life (passions, strengths / weaknesses) provides stable employment (if have scholarship), improves cognitive skills, and teaches you the most important thing in life - anything that comes easy has little meaning.

    I will not subscribe to academia as will move back to industry after.

    Keep it real guys, good luck and best wishes!

    The unsane philosipher.

  106. I am in my second year of my phd. It's comforting to read all of these similar experiences, but I'm still struggling with this decision. I've had a very stressful year in my phd program, yet have done well...until now. I should qualify and say that I've been dealing with serious health issues that have taken a fair amount of my time.

    I've hoped it to calm down, but it hasn't. Having done well in my first year certainly makes me proud, but I'm in a complete and utter dilemma over what I wonder might be a change of heart. My academic motivation has shifted with my health issues and now I'm wondering if I want to move forward.


  107. my topic wasn't the trend of the hour. And everyday my soul was crushed just a little bit more.

    I was overjoyed when I finally made the decision to quit. I volunteer now, and am looking for a job in the public sector (not a good time for this I know, but I have saved so much money in not continuing the PhD that I can now afford to volunteer for a while). My friends outside of academia were glad I had made the decision to quit and commented that I was looking much happier, and the colour returned to my face. The funny thing is though, that those who are still doing the PhDs are outraged that I'm leaving. They called me a quitter and told me I'll never get a job with that on my CV. They say that I'm throwing away something huge. I never understood why it was always those doing a PhD that were most upset with my leaving.

    I still haven't told my main supervisor or anyone at the department. I can't bring myself to go and tell him in person. Monday is the day that I plan to get it done, so wish me luck folks!

    To the last poster, I'd say do whatever makes you happy. Maybe decide to have a 'trial period', and if you are not happy then leave after perhaps 2-3 more months. Keep a journal noting how you are feeling on each particular day, and if you are consistently miserable then perhaps it isn't for you.

  108. After 5 years into my PhD in Computing, I decided to quit. During the first 2 years I have spent most of my time doing my supervisor's job - attending project meetings and writing long tedious project reports. Arranging a meeting with him was always difficult, and whenever we had a meeting he would come up with something completely different, and show me a different direction. I wanted to change supervisors but there was noone in the department that had the knowledge to supervise my research.

    Two years ago, my doctor told me to take some time off and get well because I was suffering from depression. I went back to live with my parents. However while at home I wrote a few chapters and emailed to my supervisor. He never replied. It was obvious I wasn't going to be welcomed. People have recommended me to take legal actions against him but this is not going to get me a PhD, and I've wasted enough time.

    I kind of saw this coming, but I kept telling myself I could do it. I couldn't, research is not something you can do on your own. Quitting your PhD after 5 years is not easy but it is not the end of the world. I have got myself a job, for the first time in 5 years I feel alive and happy.

  109. It is so wonderful to read about all of your experiences. I've actually come across this site before since I have been wrestling with quitting since I began my phd three years ago. I have known from the beginning that I wanted out: I don't enjoy the academic environment; I'm frustrated with the structure of the University system and I absolutely loathe doing academic writing. I am now in my fourth year and am ABD in a social science program with most of my research completed. However, I have zero interest in working in academia,zero interest in reading academic articles and participating in those conversations and the idea of spending another year or more writing a useless dissertation fills me with dread and makes me feel trapped. This is not to say that the last few years have been a loss. I have learned a lot about myself and have gained many skills while conducting my research; in that sense I have gotten what I need from the program. The dissertation will not be of any greater benefit to me as I have no interest in further academic work, though I worry about having an incomplete program and gap in my resume. I am currently trying to leverage my experiences to find work as an ABD without yet dropping. I have paid my fees this year so I feel that I can force my way through the diss if I cannot find suitable work. Though I also wonder if I could quit now and receive a second masters (it's a different field than my original MA) and walk away clean and free. Goodbye phd, I hate you.

  110. My first semester in phd is about to end in 2 weeks. So far I cope well but my body cannot. My mind keeps saying I can do it but my body says no. I'm experiencing exhaust, fatigue, a lot of stress. I have a lot of confidence since I joined but looking around and now knowing that I can pretty much live without a phd. Phd actually helps me to realise that I don't have to hold a phd to have a happy and healthy life. I'm not miserable and this phd program is not a misery to me. But in order to live my life happily and healthily I think I'm gonna walk. Good luck to everyone.

  111. reading throught some of these replies, it's crazy that some people have compared phd to wars. if you have to do that to stay in the program, then maybe you should just leave.

  112. Thank you so much for the post! You have relieved so much stress!

    I have entered a program with the illusion that entering at a more prestigious university would show me "real" science...sadly my ambitions to do well and contribute to humanity were put out once I realized that there were more idiots than intellectuals at both the PhD level and graduate level. It's sad because I worked so hard to get here and I was excited to get accepted to the school that I wanted to get into. I really didn't think things were going to be so fraud. I knew that graduate students are cheap labor but at least there has to be a little professionalism at this level....NOPE! The grad students spend their time bashing their boss and partying to numb the pain. I cannot work/live in this toxic environment. So now as a first year student, I am contemplating on leaving my PhD program with a Masters but I am so worried that it will be perceived as not being able to finish the program because I couldn't pass my qualifying exams or something. I am not leaving because I can't do it...I am leaving because I DON'T WANT to do it! Many people say it is unethical to leave with a masters for free (which in a sense I agree) but I think it is MORE unethical that these universities lied and gave you the illusion of being at the top of top with a PhD. Also, I think it is unethical that these researchers are sometimes producing publication just enhance their careers and not for the sake of science. Now I understand why taxpayers can be angry at science....I would and am too! I am just so disappointed in this whole ordeal and I worry that I will be looked as a failure at an interview. The bottom line is I want OUT and just as they made me sacrifice my personal life (leaving behind family, turning down jobs, etc) they are going to have to sacrifice a masters degree. I feel bad because I am a person of integrity but it turns out that this is a "Doggy Dog World" and everyone must look out for their themselves. Am I wrong for doing this? Am I the only one who observes/thinks of these things? I need some feedback. Once again I take nothing away from the great scientist that are out there I just despise the "wannabe" scientist wasting taxpayers money and "milking the clock" for a paycheck!

  113. This is a great blog. During my fourth year of the PhD I was diagnosed with chronic medical condition. I was thinking of quitting then, but I persevered on believing that I could handle the stress of writing and teaching (wanting to be a hero). I am now seven years in (ABD) and I physically and mentally cannot go on any longer. I have two Masters degrees, am published, and have six years of teaching experience. My husband has been lovingly supporting me the whole time, both financially and emotionally (although we barely make ends meet). I feel I could better contribute to our marriage if I leave now and find full-time work elsewhere. I also cannot afford alternative health therapies as an adjunct (it is terrible having no health insurance). I too have been told to leave PhD off my resume when applying to non-academic positions.

  114. I agree with 99% of the posts here. Granted Ph.D shouldn't be compared to the Vietnam war.

    I'm in my 3rd year of Ph.D and what I've learned is that you can not survive in your Ph.D program unless you have an absolute passion for your research.

    You must love your research more than your self, your significant other, and whatever hobbies you have. If you can not fulfill this requirement quit and do something more productive.

    It used to be that a Ph.D meant something. Now its a dime a dozen. Save the Ph.D for the students from China and India, who have no better prospects in their native country. In fact they should just outsource the science Ph.Ds completely to China and India. Each foreign Chinese and Indian Ph.d student recruited here means that your salary after your Ph.D will diminish by a proportionate amount. Be smart, find a job that can't be outsourced to cheap foreign labor.

    As the author already mentioned people have to understand the concept of sunk cost and opportunity cost. The time you spent in Ph.D already is your sunk cost, you can not get this back EVER. The time you choose to stay and rot in your Ph.D beyond this point is the opportunity cost; which you can spend on pursuing a career you enjoy or building meaningful relationships.

    Do not suffer anymore in a Ph.D at the expense of your health or your relationship with your family. Having wasted months or years already people should understand that time is the most valuable commodity not some stupid degree.

  115. Thanks to share. It's true.

    If there still are legal slave labors now, they are those PhD candidates in the America Universities!

    America has been changed from the explorer era. "Play fair" is not the ethic essence for many people here anymore. Many are proud of the US mixing pot to accept all from the world. At meantime, many busters were imported from the possible ugly corners of the world. When these things became the full tenure professor, they start to take advantage of those who want have a degree especially for foreign students.

    I am one of the victim. I learned this is so true for many students. One of my colleges said the only thing worth it is that after went through the mental torture, humiliation, depression, you can deal with any difficulty in the human world!

    I told the pig I quit and would ask the school to evaluate my work. He called me 10 times in a day and promised to help me finish by doing one more work! Now the cycle restart again. I will quit at the end of this semester if he change his pig mind again to ask more!

    Science on many compus even in top schools has turned to be a joke! Terrible slave work driving by a virtual desire for a glorious degree instead of a wipe is so common.

  116. Tolstoy

    I am only two months into my PhD, I am fully funded and i'm at a very well regarded university in the UK. I had serious reservations about beginning my PhD the summer before I came as I knew I wasn't too interested in the research area, but I thought if i didn't at least try it I would regret it not knowing what it could have been. I am already seriously considering quitting, my mind is already made up to be honest, I just feel that PhD study and academic are not for me, since beginning my PhD I have felt severe stress, anxiety, and depression. I havent been eating well, I'm loosing weight and I can't focus on anything, I can't even read a novel because of the stress, never mind dense academic material. I feel so lost, If I quit I'm afraid that I will have to pay back the university and the research council which is sponsoring my research. I feel iv'e gotten myself into such a mess, I just want to quit but I'm not sure how easy that will be. When I think of telling my supervisors I feel like i'll vomit, but i can't do this, I feel trapped by the expectations iv'e created. As an aside does anyone know if research councils and other sponsoring bodies can make you pay back any of the funding?

    I'm thinking of quitting in december before I get myself deeper into this mess. I'm going to see a uni counsellor also to get some advice and perspective. Its good to know that PhD study is not for everyone and that many people have the courage to quit regardless of how others may view their decision. I really sympathise with anyone who is going a through similar experience.

  117. Can you guys give me some idea about how to inform the school about leaving the program? Surely a lot of people are getting upset and I know I cannot do anything about it. My advisor is really pushing me to continue and I am finding it difficult to convince her that I have made up my mind. She is thinking that it can all be worked out. I never thought that saying "I don't want to do it" is going to be so difficult.

  118. I am an international student in the first year doctoral program specialized in higher education. I decided to get married and quit forever. I am completely a loser who lack the real interest in academic research and completely unprepared for the doctoral program in the US. I am evening thinking to kill myself...

  119. In a way I am relieved that 118 other people feel the same way I do. I am about to quit the program and try to get a Masters in passing. My advisor shredded any little confidence I had, so much so that I don't think I can get a job any where. I feel stupid, confused and less capable that when I entered the undergraduate program! I hope to graduate with my masters, get a job (I have been working on the confidence part) and get some counselling for this disastrous 2 year experience!

  120. mixed feelings of worthlessness, incapableness, fear,sadness and..and..,
    God i cannot support anymore, please help me and tell me what to do, i am about to quit the PhD and do not know what to do. I am an international student. I got my M.E and M.S in my country and i came to the USA full of energy to pursue a PhD program. I spent the first year trying to get experiments done. Nothing was working and i could not get good results. the topic was not easy and was harder than what i expected. I spent one more year trying harder, but i was always spinning around, could not get those tough experiment to work . I realized that i am not good for this, i am more good in numerical simulations and theoretical development. I start loosing confidence and concentration but i told my self that more hard work will and i will be on the good way, i am now in the third year and yet nothing is working. I am thinking to quit and i have 10 days to decide whether to graduate with a master in this Fall or continue the work i really hate and i do not want even to think about . I have a big issue. If i graduate, i am not sure to find a job in the USA as economy sucks, i do not want to go back home: that`s a very big shame for me.
    and more especially I want to apply to another university but i will have doctoral credits in the master transcript. Please tell me good arguments to put in my resume, i cannot think about even one.
    Thank you so much

  121. Its amazing to hear that everyone shares similar sentiments about this whole process. No one is even sticking up for the PhD. When I came into my program, I couldn't believe how miserable and negative most of the older students were. It made me make a concious effort to not hate life during graduate school - ie try to do as much fun stuff as possible while looking somewhat busy. As a result, I've worked 30-40 hour weeks and am probably still 4 years away from the degree (in my 3rd year). I think that academia is really a negative place -in general- filled with smart people who never had real social lives and who pride themselves on proving others wrong. I should have quit after year 2, but stuck around because I was funded for the year. I really have nothing to prove to anyone and know that this shit isn't for me. I think its pretty easy to tell if its going to work out for you or not within the first year or two. My only advice is to not feel like you're wasting life away while you're in the program.

    Remember: The only person stopping you from doing something is yourself!

  122. I am in my 4th year of a PhD program in psychology and the only thing I can say is that the Faculty have more psychological issues than most of the patients I have treated. I have been treated so poorly by Faculty and students for the first two years in my program. Of course, when I stood up for myself, I was labelled a troublemaker and most people in the department refused to associate with me. Students AND Faculty have made racist comments to me during classes. I contracted pneumonia during my first year as a result of working 80 hour weeks...most lawyers don't work that much!!!!! What did I get for contracting pneumonia? Reprimands for not taking better care of myself! Also, I was forced to give a presentation while contagious; otherwise, I would have failed that course and would have to take it in my second year. This is the kind of bullshit I have had to endure. I have worked many jobs prior to grad school and I have never had to work in such a toxic and unsupportive environment as I have had to endure in my graduate program. I finally moved out of state without telling anybody in my program until I was safely in my home state. My supervisor was mad, but what can she do? I have already fulfilled the residency requirements of the program and she can't make me move back to the state where the university is located.

    I have thoughts of quitting on a daily basis. I enrolled in the PhD program for the wrong reasons. I thought it would bring me prestige, money, and recognition. Instead, I am in my early 30s, broke, struggling with a diagsnosed anxiety disorder and depression, and completely unmotivated to work on my dissertation. I have the pickiest supervisor who rips apart my work and has told me that I am not good enough to be a doctoral student. Unfortunately, I come from a culture that really values educational and occupational prestige and my extended family members, who have struggled in this country, are counting on me to finish this degree. Thinking about my dissertation makes me not only vomit in my head, but it makes me doubt myself. I have lost ALL of my confidence and self-esteem to the point where I cried in front of the Chief Psychologist at my internship...only to be told that my experience isn't unusual. So I wonder how everybody is getting through, and completing, their programs.

    This sounds ridiculous, but the only reason I am going to continue my PhD is so that one of my good friends will throw a PhD party for me. Why? Because I have not been recognized for anything in the past 3 years. I have not had any fun, I did not make any friends in my program, and nobody bothered to check in with me to see how I was doing during my bout with pneumonia. I just want to have one night where I can feel happy and proud. Is that too much to ask for?

    For those people who completed the PhD, how did you do it? I have so much anxiety when I sit down to read or write that I just can't do anything. I am paralyzed. Your help would be greatly appreciated!

  123. Was just going through bookmarks and saw that I still had this blog bookmarked from a few months ago. I posted on September 11 about quitting my PhD after 3 years. Well, I got my Master's and moved home, and so far, no regrets.

    I took a fantastic 2-week solo road trip to get home, visiting friends along the way. I got a job at the first company I applied to (a software company that my friend worked for). I'm not getting to use all the fancy math I've spent years learning, but I'm not worrying about that for now, because I am happier. I have less control over how I spend my time each day than I did as a student, but I feel like I am more in control of my life. I'm more confident. I appreciate leisure time with friends and family more. I'm not doing groundbreaking research but that doesn't mean I'm not learning. The people at work are friendly and lots of them are my age.

    Guys, I followed my gut and wasn't wrong. This change of pace is exactly what the doctor ordered. I'm pretty lucky to have landed on my feet so quickly, but it can be done. Good luck to those of you who are weighing the pros and cons. I just wanted to check in and say that life outside academia does go on.

  124. Reading this blog as well as a few other essays on the Web has been incredibly helpful. I am in the middle of my 6th year. I am an older student who had a great professional job before entering the PhD program and have since returned to that job. I have rediscovered who I am, and it is not someone who is remotely interested in research, and I am working on getting happy again. I lost myself in the PhD and felt like I was just a terrible person in every way, a failure at almost everything. I am in the process of writing the letter to my committee to quit. I have known that I wanted to quit for at least a year and a half, but like many others here, I feel guilty about wasting my professors' time and energy and the funding that I received early in the program. I also hate the idea that I am quitting something. I also know that one of my main advisers will be so disappointed. However, I have come to the conclusion that if I simply do not want to do the work that is part of the PhD program or the work it leads to, then it is not wise to continue. It has not been an easy decision, and I think I will feel some regrets, but I think it will be such a relief to have decided. I am also excited about really being able to focus on my job and see my successes there.

  125. Getting a bit annoyed at the poeple saying 'oh my, no one is sticking up for the PhD'. The PhD is obviously a valid option for many - they're the ones whon we're looking at and thinking 'Why can't I be like them?' This forum is for people who don't fit into that mold to realize they're not alone. I'm 16months in. Was working at one project for 10months. Was dreadful at it. Was so close to leaving, but was afraid I'd regret it. Supervisor suggested changing project. Like this project more, but realized the problem was that I didn't really give enough thought the the PhD before I started. I came in with an extremely naive view. I am totally able for a PhD, I now realize, but this is not the one for me. Going to talk to my supervisor next week, and ask if I can aim to finish with a Master's by the end of 2 years. Wish me luck.

  126. I wish I had found this blog a year ago. I have been thinking about quitting for a really long time, and a year ago I was in my supervisors office with my resignation, but somehow I was talked into waiting, and now I do not know how I could have let myself stay this long. I have just had a meeting with my supervisors where I tried to talk about how much I do not like working there, and I tried to talk about how I see my project, but I was basically laughed at, looked down upon for even mentioning that I was struggling, and also told that I do not work enough. I have known for a long time that quitting this job is the best thing I can do, and now I am just waiting one month before I hand in my resignation so that there will be a nice transfer from PhD-studies, to a different masters program without a big gap in my resume. Life science is not a good place to work if you are not willing to completely abandon everything in your life and only focus on your project. And what I see as the worst part, is that the actual research, and the work being done, is really really bad. Things get published that one know is wrong, lab results are only kept and used if they support our already decided upon theories - theories that does not fit reproducible data. We are not doing research anymore, mostly we are just pushing unrelated things together in a wrong way to try and get published. Science is not good anymore...


  127. I read all the comments one by one. I have also come to this page by just typing "quit Phd" in google. I have been a Phd student for 2,5 years. I have had such a hard time so far. I could publish and still writing papers. But not happy with my work beucause I am only expected to submit papers to get financial support by the project I am involved in. I have to chase all the conference deadlines submit a journal paper at the end of the year. I never have enough time to analyze the experimental results but just put them in a polished form so that they could be published. Until my first paper came out, my supervisor was so mean to me. She even said I should not be a phd student, as if I put a gun to her head for her to choose me among all those applicants. I have felt terrible, I lost all my interest. I am angry with myself very much since I am not brave enough to quit.

  128. Oh dear... where do I begin?
    I started my PhD program in 2003. I have passed all courses, took and passed the comps, worked as a TA and now I'm an ABD. I had a very serious marital crisis in 2007, it almost destroyed my marriage. I developed depression, found a full time job and put my PhD on a hook, for the time being. Then I started another MA program and I am hoping to finish it next year. I am pretty sure I am not going to go back to my dissertation. Even thinking about it makes me depressed.

    I was receiving a scholarship during my PhD studies, by nevertheless I accumulated some debt I still have to repay.

    I think getting PhD is really overrated. My friends who got there (or almost got there) are depressed, lonely and desperate. There are no permanent jobs, there is no hope for family life...

    After my marital crisis in 2007 I looked in the mirror and decided to live in a different way, with different priorities. A small house, small garden, home made bread and frequent hiking trips with my wife turned out to be much more meaningful than writing yet another paper.

  129. I quit I quit I quit!

    Handing in my resignation is the best thing I have done in a very long time, and (as someone else noted above), one of the most self-responsible things I have done in a while.. Upon telling my decision to my group, several of the other grad-students and some PostDocs said they envied me for making this decision, and that they regretted letting themselves continue for so long as it only becomes more and more difficult to leave this field.
    Another thing I have noticed is that my work is getting better after I quit, as I am not over-thinking, over-analyzing, self-critiquing and stressing all the time. I am going to try and wrap up my project over the next 3-4 months (and I will still get grant money this period - lucky me), and then I am going to push the reset button over the summer and start again in the autumn by going back to school and get a real profession.

    Coming to terms with this decision took a long time, but in the end I just said f#¤% it; this life is slowly taking me to the brink of serious depression, and no "job" is worth this kind of psychological pain! Reading through other posts on this forum has helped me to realize just how idiotic a pressure we put on ourselves.. for... what? so we can continue on as PostDOcs, so we can work ourselves into isolation, depression and what not? If you thoroughly enjoy being a researcher with all it entails; good for you, I hope you make it. But if the grad student life gets to you - beyond the normal "I hate this project", "I hate my supervisor" etc, then get out! There is absolutely no shame in starting over! And please remember that you do not live for other people, so whatever kind of pressure family/friends and so on put on you, it is ultimately your decision and your life on the line - so do what is best for you, then start mending relationships when you yourself are in a better place.

    Thanks to all those who have shared their experience here, and for this blog - it has really helped me with the start of building a better life for myself.


  130. I have been in limbo for about 3 weeks about my decision to leave grad school (I am my fourth year...writing a NIH fellowship proposal and currently on a one year Univeristy fellowship) for a research position with the state department of health. Frankly, this is the position I wanted all along, but damnit i feel like a FAILURE if I don't finish.

    And frankly, I don't feel *that* bad yet about the dissertation...but right now its just a proposal. Who knows how much I could grow to despise it in 2-3 more years?!? I mean, I feel like I could do it, but should I? I still have this little fantasy about being an academic but I also have a fantasy of being a small business seems to me I gotta pick one...any advice?

  131. If you have been struggling for only about 3 weeks, you might want to take a little more time before you decide upon anything. I know it might be a lame advice, but you should not rush into something as it is not that easy to get back into academia. I was in limbo for almost a year before I decided to quit - but that was too long and made me close to severely depressed though.

    If the only thing that stops you from going for the research position with the state department of health is that you would feel like a FAILURE then you do NOT have a good reason to stay.
    If your intention is to become a professor some day, then you should give it all you got to get through the dissertation - however, if you do not want to give it all you got to become a professor, then you really do not need to get through the dissertation...

    Just remember that there is no right or wrong answer to this, only you can decide what is good for you and your life.


  132. Incredibly useful comments. The faculty in my department has been immensely supportive, but all that aside the program has a reputation for NOT graduating their students on time. I am not ready to spend an additional 5 years stuck in limbo, and have thus decided to call it a day as far as a PhD goes, though the job prospects and money for my specific field (business) are excellent in the States. However, the key here is motivation and the quality of your program and it's placements -- if it doesn't match your desired outcome, chances are that you're going to fall in the same group as those who graduated before you.

  133. I completed my PhD course work in December 2009 and successfully passed comps in March 2010, this while pursuing a diploma that isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Since I've started the program in 2006, I know of only three graduates from my program with tenure-track jobs nationwide--dozens more are now working for the department as adjuncts or as nontenured faculty elsewhere. The department I worked in is so dysfunctional (office politics, backstabbing, favoritism, alienation by committee members, high faculty turnover, etc.) that I cleaned out my TA desk and started meeting students at Starbucks, under trees, and anywhere else that distanced me from that toxic environment! I love teaching but HATE working for this department.

    Why did I stay this long? I didn't want to let my family down and I didn't want to be seen as a "quitter," but that (il)logic has gotten me nowhere for the past year. I feel as though I'm trapped in a bad marriage but have convinced myself to stay "for the sake of the kids." Well, fortunately I DID leave a bad marriage and my kids and I have been better off, so I know I will do just fine as ABD. I'm in the process of quitting my joke of a program and applying for an MA in community education (my true love) and directly working with underserved college students.

    Don't let your PhD abusers--er, advisers--sweet talk you into staying for the long term if you know in your heart of hearts you shouldn't stick around. Have an exit plan in place and start packing!

  134. What a wonderful blog. I quitted my PhD program from Stanford University 9 months ago (after I finished my 3rd year). But, suffering from a major depression after leaving school, left me emotionally paralyzed. I had a brilliant academic record and worked for an intentional company for 5 years prior to Stanford. I have 2 Masters degrees, one in Engineering and one in Business, but my self esteem has been so low after my PhD experience that I haven't been able to move on and apply for any job. I feel if I go for an interview, people would judge me poorly. I feel extreme anxiety as soon I start the job application process. I know it is not true, but I feel something has changed in me forever and I don't have the ability to do anything right. People keep telling me how talented I am, or remind me of my high-profile career before PhD, but it doesn't help. for example, when I look at analyst jobs at a management consulting firm, I feel I am over qualified. When I look and senior associate/management jobs, I feel I am not good enough. I am really stuck.
    ps. I've started seeing a therapist recently, but it doesn't help much.

  135. Anon,

    I am in my PhD program now. I am 2.5 years in right now. I had (have) major depression and started meds/therapy a year ago. We are in a very similar situation. I had excellent career prospects before coming in and the PhD process has shredded me. Stick with the therapy. Change therapists if it does not work. Also exercise. You can pull out of this.

  136. Wish the world would swallow me up... because that is a far better option than the PhD swallowing me up instead. There's so much more out there that I know I would prefer to do. I haven't lost my confidence in that yet.

  137. Hello all,

    At first I was relived to read that so many people are dealing with the same problem as me. After a while I got sad because I genuinely feel bad that others are suffering the way I am suffering. (I write this assuming that most of you cry often, have lost weight and can't sleep at night on account of your decision to start a PhD :)

    I started my PhD in September of 2010. My degree is in Speech Pathology but I am not a clinician (meaning that my phd is a research one and not a clinical based one, should I finish, I would research and not work with patients).

    My second month into the degree I started noticing that I'm unhappy about the fact that I have to live on limited funding. Many people my age (I am 26yo) own houses by now meaning they have money which I presume they gathered while working).

    Soon after that I realized that my dissatisfaction doesn't come from the fact that I don't have money but rather from the knowledge that my future is shaky at best with a PhD.

    I live in Ontario, Canada and have moved around my entire life because of a war in my home country. By the age of 13 I was speaking a third language and living on a third continent. I am happy in Ontario and would like to stay here.

    Sadly academia doesn't work like that. Because I am not willing to relocate to USA or too far away from Ontario for work, I started exploring my options outside of academia and suffice to say, there aren't any. It's academia or nothing and if you factor in my absence of clinical degree, my choices are even more slim bc a PhD with a clinical MA would be hired over me in most if not all scenarios.

    I am now dealing with the knowledge that starting a PhD was a big mistake for me because it wasn't a wise investment of my time. I have been miserable since realizing this. Despite the fact that we as PhDs are groomed to believe that we are somehow elite, there is nothing elite about being unable to provide for yourself.

    Despite all of this, I am still not 100% sure that I should leave. My thoughts can be classified as follows:

    Pro staying:
    - my supervisor is fantastic and there is even data for me to use for my dissertation (BIG BONUS, right)

    Contra Staying:
    - my odds of finding a job are slim at best after finishing. Sure, the market could change but that's another risky gamble. If I have to settle and do something that isn't my plan A job I can do that with a master's degree, right?

    - I hate the pace at which my life is progressing. I feel that since I"m unmarried and don't have children, I could be doing more with myself, investing my energy into something with a pay cheque

    Nothing in life is certain, right? Beginner anxiety is normal for many areas of life, why should this PhD be any different, right? Well, I'm just half way into my second semester of my first year so technically I'm still a beginner. So how do I know, when the anxiety I feel is too much?

    Any guidance? Advice? Insight?

  138. I am just wrapping up my 2nd year in a biology PhD program, and I have had serious doubts I want to continue for another 2 to 3 years to finish the program. I have spent countless hours studying and working in the lab. This has really hut my personal life. Not being around a lot has damaged friendships and even worse it was one of the major reasons I lost my girlfriend.

    While I don't mind doing lab work, I just don't think I would make it as a professor constantly having to apply and be awarded grants to keep my job. My chances of getting a job would be very slim continuing this path. The unknown and starting over scares me though

    My GPA has been very high in both undergraduate and graduate school, but none of that really matters, its really all about experience. I have read and heard the stories of having a PhD and that actually hurting you when applying for jobs.

    Like always, I guess it comes down to finding what I want to do for the rest of my life and unfortunately I am not in my mid 20s and I have not found answer to this questions.....

    I am really glad I found this blog, from reading your comments, I am not the only one going through this.


  139. Just decided to quit this week after 4 years ... between disillusionment at academia, no prospects of lecturing at the end of it and wanting a life, thought that while it is late, at least cut my losses. It is shocking the degree of thinking that somehow it will all come together and you tolerate it for another year.
    The supervisor has agreed to convert it to a Masters but it would be my second one so not really pushed as such, but want something to show for the effort.
    Thanks for the blog and for anyone else stuck in this personal hell, you are not alone! Get out if your heart isn't in it!

  140. I am in the second year of a PhD in psychology. It was something I wanted to do for a long time, since I graduated from undergrad more than 10 years ago. But I didn't have the confidence back then. So I got older and had a career and gained the confidence I needed to get into a PhD program but I absolutely hated the first year. I wasn't used to being in school so the workload was really difficult for me. My cohort members are all young, in their 20's. Some of them were straight out of school so they were used to schoolwork and it didn't seem like a big deal to them. I hated first year and wasn't sure I should come back.

    I took the summer off, rested, felt better and came back for the second year. While second year has been a bit better, I never stopped thinking about whether I still want to go through with this because the workload is ridiculous and the end result is uncertain.

    I found this web site a couple of weeks ago and was very happy to see that I am not alone. I have decided to leave my program in the last few days. I just reached my limit of studying. I just can't do it anymore. I thought I loved psychology, and I do, but apparently not enough to put up with a demanding workload.

    I'm older and took a leave of absence from my job to do this program. So I will just go back to my job and it's no big deal. At least I can say I tried and I won't have any regrets about having tried. Those of you who are younger and don't have a job to go to, don't worry. Don't let that stop you from leaving your program if it's making you really miserable. There's a really good reason only 1% of the population has a doctorate!

  141. I stumbled upon this post b/c I've been thinking about attempting to finish my PhD after quitting with a masters about 4 years ago. Every post is so familiar, it feels like I'm in some strange reality where I've actually written each one of them! Although I know that quitting my program was the best decision for me at the time, I still beat myself up about it with doubts (which I know is completely irrational). The truth is my program shredded my self-esteem even though I was one of the golden children of my program at a top school (high GPA, full funding, made the department look good, etc.). I was extremely depressed when I decided to leave and was depressed for some time afterward. I felt like a failure, but something inside of me also told me that my decision was very smart. I still struggle with feeling like a failure even though I have a decent job at a very well-known, global organization. I feel that my experience in a PhD program inherently changed me--both for good and for bad. I definitely lost a bit of myself there, but at least I got out before I lost all of myself. I think what everyone is expressing is that we're all probably overachiever types and most of us probably would still have these feelings even with the PhD. A LOT of my professors were depressed and medicated most of the time. I've seen a professional about this and it has really helped alot. I've been where a lot of you are now, and my advice to you is to listen to that intuitive voice inside your head. If you're forcing something, it's probably not the best thing for you. Interesting enough, my counselor actually disclosed to me that she left a neurosurgery program to become a counselor. It was the best thing she's done. Looking back, leaving my program at that time was the best decision I've ever made. Maybe I'll get a PhD in the future (although I do have my doubts about the value of a PhD) or maybe I won't. I think I'm okay with that now. So glad so many people decided to share. It's a unique experience to relate to...

  142. Wow this blog has been very helpful and encouraging. I am in the 2nd year of my PhD and I want out. I have a high GPA, am getting inducted in an honor society this month, and think I will be granted another scholarship next month. However, I want to live my life. I have discovered, in these two years, that I don't want to be a professor and I don't want to do research. It would be great to have the initials behind my name, but the buck stops there. I am passionate about fitness and dance. I will begin teaching Zumba soon and want to work towards my certification in group fitness. I think I am more concerned about what people will think than I am about quitting. So many people are rooting for me, so this will be hard. I hope they will support me a I pursue my true passion.

  143. Hi! I am 6 months into a PhD and I increasingly feel unable to cope! I want to go into Scientific publishing/ editing and thought that a PhD would benefit me to get a job but I am so low most days that I get to the point where I am choking back tears. I did really well in my masters' but I hate my PhD, I don't want to be in academic research at all and I think I made the wrong choice doing a PhD rather than going into publishing with my masters and now I have an interview in London for an assistant editing job! What do I do :-( will it look bad that I started and then quit my program in a job interview??

  144. I am pretty happy I found this blog.

    Like many, I am wrapping up my 2nd year in a Biology PhD program. My GPA has been high, my lab work as gone decent so far and I have been blessed in having a good PI.

    But since I have started the program, in the back of my mind I have constantly been second guessing my future in academia and research. I have realized that the value of a PhD really is not much higher than a Masters. I have seen very good post docs, struggle to keep their post-doc positions. I have seen professors at my university who are very intelligent lose their jobs because they can't get grant funding. And this really worries me as while I am smart, I just don't think I would be able to make it in this line of business. But then I fight with I have already invested 2 years, I am at the halfway point. My PI has been very good to me and very helpful and I really don't want to let down. I always thought I wanted to work in the research field, but I am slowly finding out it just might not be for me.

    What is worse is I see how different a lot of my close friends lives are compared to mine. Most went to undergrad and after that went straight to the work force, or went to professional schools like pharmacy, law school, etc. And in general, they seem much more happy with their life, and they already have homes and a family. Then there is me, it just seems I am missing out on a lot in life taking the route I did.

    At this point, I don't know what to do, but reading a lot of the comments hear at least makes me feel like I am not alone!


  145. Anonymous: March 23, 2011 6:32 AM

    Think of yourself in 6 months if (and hopefully when) you're in an assistant editing job, will you have any regrets? Personally, I think if that's the career you really want and you have the opportunity NOW then you should go for it. This might be a bit cheeky but do the interviewers need to know that you're on a PhD program and maybe quitting. What did you say you were doing on your CV when you applied?

    I've been following this blog for about six months now and this is my first comment because that particular post struck a chord as I may be interested in that kind of career as well. I'm also six months into my PhD and after an initial 'oh my god what the hell am I doing? I hate this thing!' period I'm settling in quite nicely and am enjoying it. However, I think I've already decided that a typical academic career may not be the way forward for me. I don't really have dreams of being a lecturer or professor one day.

    We'll see!

  146. Being someone who has completed the doctorate, I would not do it again knowing what I know now. It was VERY difficult and I wish that I had quit early on or had never started. Why? Because it was not worth the price or the effort. I spent thousands, lost my sanity, and lost 6 years with my children. I'm currently an assistant professor at a small university, but will never make back what I spent on the doctorate. As a matter of fact, the highest paid people in my building only have master degrees. Think you need a doctorate to teach at a university? Think again. They may advertise that a doctorate is required, but they will hire someone without the doctorate with experience over the one who wasted 6 years going to school. While I was in school, others were getting the experience and now are making hefty salaries. Sure universities need some people with terminal degrees for accreditation purposes; however, they only need a few. The rest only need the masters.

  147. Question for people ... I'm nearing the end of my first year of a PhD program in the life sciences, and I'm definitely leaving. I don't have a masters, but I really can't stand to be here for another year - there's nothing disastrously wrong with the university, but I know that a PhD is not for me. I'm exploring the job market, and am definitely ok with going back to school at some point in a different field to enhance my career prospects. My question is, will leaving a PhD program hurt my chances to get into a master's program (let's say, for education)? My grades are alright but I would struggle gathering letters of recommendation from people here. Thanks!

  148. No, leaving a PhD program will not hurt your chances of enrolling in a master's program. Schools are always looking for new students and may accept some of your PhD work toward the masters.

  149. I've been in a PhD program in the US since 2003. I have always studied and worked part-time, as I was a single mom when I entered the program. I am passionate about my topic, and I enjoy research.

    It is absolutely typical to consider quitting the program. I am amazed that even 1% of people hold PhDs given the seemingly universal dysfunction in higher education. My adviser and committee chair is ridiculously controlling and commented on how I was unlike her other advisees because I am so independent. Despite this "flaw" I have had to forge my own path because this individual can never admit to not knowing something. She would rather tell me "You can't" rather than help me find a way. So, I go and make it happen.

    I'm staying and finishing, but I have adopted the "beg pardon rather than ask permission" practice.

    What a freak show academia is!

  150. Hi,
    great to read this. I was in a school where i didn't like the program, so I completed my MS and joined a new PhD program. Now this program is pretty good. but the problem is funding. its a state school, and a lot of professors actually have no money. so almost towards the end of my first year, I don't have a good lab to join. I already have a publication from my MS. so I was thinking, would it be wise if I try to apply to some big schools again? I mean this is the 2nd phd program that I am it wise to change again? I am not happy with my current situation, and I know that I aim withut a very good lab to work in, I would be frustrated anyway!!!
    what to do??!! :(

  151. Hi, I have been in a phd chemistry program for 4 years. I feel hopeless and suicidal lately. My boss is an angry man, and he tends to yell at me. I could possibly finish the phd in 6 months. but i dont know if i can stomach it any longer. i dont want to be a professor. industry or science writing would be fine with me. i do not trust my boss, and he may make me pay for the summer semester in order to write my thesis . . . advise? will I find a job later?

  152. Those of you who are struggling and wondering what jobs might be out there for you - I recommend that you check out It bills itself as a place for social science and humanities Ph.D.s - but really, they're for anyone who is leaving academia in any field, at any stage.

    Sign up for a free account, and read through the forums. You won't be disappointed. You aren't alone, and you have options.

  153. B.S said
    Like most of you, I am also so very tired of my Ph.D. I always thought I wanted to do a Ph.D. Maybe also because my dad has been such a role model in my life. I applied for a Ph.D. which was not of my interest. I was looking for jobs and then I got this Ph.D - I could not say NO to the offer as I didn't have anything else to do at that time. I thought I'd give it a try - 2 years have passed now and still I have not developed any interest in it. It's like a mental torture everyday - I can't enjoy even my holidays! I've had no progress whatsoever that I can be feel good about. I know I am wasting my time. But I don't know what I would do otherwise. I feel trapped. I feel like a failure too like most of you have mentioned - I don't feel strong enough to give up even at this point. I'd like to be in this University researching a topic I like but choosing the wrong topic just to get some job was a very wrong thing to do. I am just so so so so sick and tired of my Ph.D!

  154. I am quitting this Phd after 12 months of HELL. I don't know how i am going to go through the finals, but after that I am so sure that I will be SO happy... I am all ready for my normal life again, where you can work and have your time for yourself and not being sick of this stupid competition of the academic world. thank you all for sharing. Today I was even thinking about dying but I guess I can survive two more months.

  155. To share with you all, I too had a pretty good career prior to a PHD program in counseling psychology. I was the top employee in my department at work, received a promotion, and given a lot of autonomy to create projects. I had graduated from college in the late 1990's wanting to pursue further study, finished a double masters degree in 2004, but didn't feel ready to move forward with a PHD program until 2009. All of the great stuff that happened for me at my last full-time position gave me the energy and confidence to pursue doctoral work. However, by the middle of the first semester, I developed a lot of physical symptoms that got much worse by the middle of the second semester. First, it was physical symptoms which then led to mental issues, including anxiety and panic attacks. All of my doctors were very concerned that it would get even worse and convinced me to let go of a few things. They even wrote a note, signed by four health care professionals, including a physiatrist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist, asking my school to provide me with this accommodation. Basically, I dropped all research work with my advisor, and immediately, my health improved. This throbbing pain in my shoulder disappeared. I couldn't believe it. The doctors were telling me it was stress, but I refused to listen to them until I had trouble taking notes in class. I would feel pain in my shoulders whenever I attempted to write. At that point, I had been to three physical therapists. So, now it's been almost a year since my last doctoral in-class presentation, and I'm so glad for my health that I didn't return. I've been on some job interviews and was pretty close at getting a few jobs. It does get easier with time when you explain to prospective employers why you left. I tell them that heavy academic research wasn't for me and that "I prefer working with people instead. At the time I couldn't turn down a full scholarship." So, it's not as bad as you might think when you need to explain it. You just need to rehearse it enough so that it comes out naturally at interviews. When I knew that I might not make it through the program, I made sure to at least do what I could to ensure at least one letter of recommendation/reference. Since leaving, I've actually been able to secure two references b/c the professors really liked me. The department head said that what happened to me is not that uncommon. Over the course of her career, she's seen about 10 students in my situation, and she's only in her late 40's/early 50's. Basically, the high stress lifestyle, week after week took its toll on my body. The PHD is definitely not for everyone, not everyone can work 80 hour week jobs, and that's what it is. Due to the unrealistic workload, you have to work 7 days a week. Not everyone is built that way. Some of us, need more down time and rest than others. That is a fact of reality and is something very important that I have learned from this experience. I also think that this is going to make me a much more compassionate human being and mother, hopefully someday.

  156. This blog has done heaps to make me feel less isolated. I'm not a PHD student (unlike many of you here), but rather a MS student working on a dissertation. At the present my work wholly lacks direction - I am expected to prepare my dissertation and defend in May of 2012, however in spite of having been at school for 2 semesters now I've yet to find a suitable research topic. The area my adviser wants me to conduct my research in is not one of particular interest to me, and to be honest I am not very keen on pursuing a job related to the area upon graduation. I feel completely lost and hopeless - left adrift at a school I'm not fond of in a program I'm not fond of, but at the same time I don't know what I would do were I to leave. I came to this school hoping that a MS in computer science would make me more marketable when I left to find a job, but conversations with others have lead me to believe that this is only the case if your research is pertinent to the job you're seeking. In my case I would like to find something pertaining to programming in industry, but my coursework and research emphasizes theory and models (neither of which I view with any great interest). I am not sure whether or not I should simply cut my losses and try to find a graduate program more suitable to my interests, or endure here. Every day I feel sad,lonely and overwhelmed, but the thought of leaving makes me feel anxious and depressed. Some days I genuinely feel that coming to graduate school was the worst choice I could have made, and I strongly urge anyone considering it to think it through carefully and do you research before committing to a program.

  157. I'm 34, in my 5th year. I only got halfway through my fieldwork before getting sick with dengue fever and then severe anemia. My boyfriend dumped me. The men in the country where I was based harassed and stalked me. Every year I'm in more and more debt. I really, really want to quit. But... then what?

    I appreciate all your posts.

  158. I am in my first year as a PhD student and have decided to quit. I am scared shitless but I have no other choices. despite my efforts my grades are not improving, so is better to walk away now then later. Besides I live in a very expensive state and my motivational level has gone down. Good luck to those pursuing a PhD, it breaks my heart to admitted, but a PhD in science is not for me.

  159. I am doing my PhD in a government organisation connected at least a top 5 uni in the country. It's hard to explain the relentless misery of it all. I almost feel like I have missed the boat that sailed with my grad year. They are getting long-service accolades while I have no work experience, and it seems very real that with a PhD in hand in a year’s time I'll at best have a short postdoc contract. I find it so ironic that the only reason I chose (well forced into) this prestigious offer was because I couldn't get a job in the last recession! I work amoungst scientist from all levels. It is a very lifeless, introverted, unsocial,workoholic environment. I had three people last week (all three PhD's) tell me that they weren't stimulated here and they are all leaving very soon. I truly believe you should only get a PhD if you a really fantastic in that field, otherwise you won't have job security, work unpaid overtime, struggle writing papers, and be underpaid. But even if you were why would you want to be in this shit boring, soul destroying, asylum for nerds.

  160. I'm currently finishing up my undergrad, and for the longest time I thought that I wanted to pursue grad school afterward. Then I started a summer research project. I'm a month and a half in, and I hate everything about my project; I hate talking about it, hearing about it, thinking about it, going into the lab, and being near people who actually enjoy research. In the process of denying and then acknowledging my misery, I've been developing headaches and then migraines. This site has helped validate my feelings and put into perspective just how miserable "prestige" can be. I really want a great career, but I don't want any of the ones in industry or academia that follow advanced science degrees. I just want to be outside, working with an environmental organization./rant

  161. I'm currently less than a month into a science PhD program and already having doubts about whether this is what I should be doing. However, I don't want an industry job -- I want to teach at college level (but probably not do research). I know that adjunct faculty salaries are often next to nothing, but it's next to impossible to get a good full-time position without the PhD. What to do?

    I have a Master's already and I discovered then that it was very difficult to be motivated to do research 8 or more hours a day, every day.

  162. I (previous poster) should add that I like my advisor so far... it's not the people or environment so much as the constant drudgery of research. I have no industry experience of any kind, but I do have 1 year teaching experience. Not sure if I can get letters from there; I left in good standing, but the people at the school I taught at (during my M.S.) did all of the letters and everything for my PhD, and they all really expect me to succeed here...

    It's also my first time far away from home, so I'm struggling with homesickness and am not sure how much that might contribute to perceived research difficulty.

    Finally, I took a year off between my master's and PhD. Having been out of school for so long, I feel like I've forgotten a lot and changed a lot, and am struggling to get back into the routine, even though I absolutely loved school during undergrad and most of the M.S. program. What should I do?

  163. Wooooooww! I'm so happy that i found this blog.....i'm also doing a PhD and currently i'm in my final year....yes, in previous years many times i considered to quit my made me feel very miserable, like someone wrote in these comments: the academia world is full of negative energy and you always get critism, critism, critism and your work is never good enough...sometimes i have to cry....when i attained my master degree i had so many self-confidence....but the academia world destroyed everything.....i had so many moments i felt like loser, worthless and very stupid....and yeah....many times i felt like i'm so stupid that i won't able to function at the labour market at all.....

    It would be smart if i quitted with my phd some years ago.....but like someone else already wrote: you're afraid for the unknown and you have the idea that you won't find any work because of the economic crisis....and on the other hand: i didn't want that some colleages would say: 'you see....i knew she wasn't able to complete the PhD".....

    I don't think I will finish my PhD in 4 year....i need a half year more and then I can finish it.....i hope i'll finish it and that i'm able to leave this horrible experience behind me.....

  164. Hello there ,, I did't think that such a blog exist thank you for that,,I'm really struggling in my PhD ,I'm 7 months thru in one of top 5 university in UK ,and I'm thinking of quitting,is it a good choice to quit and then join another university with lower rank i don't know why i'm obsessed with universities ranking

  165. Thanks for this terrific blog. I'm one year into my PhD program, which I started thinking I wanted to teach full time at the college level (I've taught as an adjunct at several schools since getting my master's). This year has made me feel isolated from the rest of academia (and my peers) in that I'm not passionate about research-- all I really want to do is teach. Unfortunately, I'm an RA, but the few times I was able to guest-TA a class this year were by far the happiest times all school year. I am now 100% sure that I want to teach at a private high school where there is no pressure to publish and there are plenty of opportunities to mentor students (coaching, dorm duty) outside the classroom. I am committed to doing 1 more year in the PhD with the intention of getting ABD status, as I think it will be an asset to eventually moving up as a dept. chair or head of school. My question is: how much more clout would a PhD earn me over ABD at the high school level? I think I can go ABD in 2-2.5 years (since I already have a master's), but the PhD will take at least 4 years. Advice?

  166. Indeed, if you are sure that research is not your dreaming job, why to get a PhD? Just for the status you will have a terrible time. But if you love to do research and see your future in it (like me), money/car/house cannot be the reason to quit. (here in the NL we have a quite good salary though).Choose something you like to do, and what you feel fits you best. I love my job as a PhD, love my polo 1.0, my house and my boyfriend :)

  167. Hi all....I am so much happy to have found a group of people sailing in the same boat as me! I am in second year of my PhD and will begin third soon...I also had bad years since I joined supervisor is a good person but stresses everyone like hell....i have been stressed, depressed, down motivated and very tensed for every day of my life for last 2 get PhD might be easy for me as there is no publication condition..but I feel its difficult to survive at this place for next one year...I have 3 years contract only! I feel there is no proper communication between me n my PI and I feel ignored and depressed everytime in lab...I need to survive and get it done!!!any sugessions please?

  168. I'm so glad I found this site. I have been enrolled in my PhD program for six years and have come close to wrapping up my diss in humanities. I did very well in the program and my diss adviser likes me work very much, but...! But I simply dislike doing what I do. Finding the motivation to go on with my scholarship day after day has been really tough the last 2-3 years. In fact, for some time now, I've been thinking that I have simply developed a depressive personality, that I caved in under life's disappointments (so to say). The biggest disappointment: I no longer feel "in love" with my field and, frankly, ideas no longer feel like a burning passion. It is a crushing, painful realization, but that's my life.
    So, recently I decided to stop aiming for the PhD carrot and started looking for non-academic jobs. What happened next took me by surprise--ok, it was positively freaking weird. Looking for non-academic gigs made me feel energetic, alive and plain incredibly motivated. Who knew I had that in me? Wishing everyone luck and courage.

  169. Hi All,

    Thank you so much for this blog. I am currently 7 months into a PhD in the UK and I am miserable. I feel like I am nowhere near the academic level of my peers, I'm bored and feeling quite depressed. I am however funded by the ESRC and I was wondering whether this affects my ability to quit? Please could anybody advise who has gone through this process with funding as I need to get my life back on track, I used to be happy!

  170. Today I officially quit my PhD.

    Reading all of these comments was very inspiring and helped me out so much! It's been especially hard since I'm about 6 months away from getting my degree, and apparently people have strong opinions about me quitting in these last months.

    I'm Dutch, and here a PhD is recognized as an actual job, where you get paid pretty good. We also do not take classes, because that's what our MSc degree is for, so basically I was only doing my own research, and making a PhD out of some articles that I had already published at another University. I did my PhD work on top of another job as teacher and junior researcher at the University.

    I went into this thing because I had heard that a PhD is good for your career, gets you respect, and makes you super smart. But after 2 years of misery, a burn-out for 6 months, where I lay in bed staring at the ceiling for months on end, serious damage to my self esteem, horrible colleagues who have not a drop of passion for their work, I decided to follow my heart and leave this toxic place. And all of a sudden I feel 100 pounds lighter, people say I look super happy, and I have tons and tons of energy.

    Apparently YOU DO NOT NEED A PHD if you want a nice job that suits you! Had someone told me this sooner, I would have never started.

    I really think that a PhD is only meant for people who dream about a career in academia and love detailed research work. It is not for people who are incredibly smart, but also social, energetic, passionate, self-confident, creative and who think out-of-the box. Because then all of these wonderful qualities are lost in this world where all that matters is that you publish papers that everyone admits are crappy and unscientific.

    I was lucky that I had an amazing supervisor, who only wants what's best for me, and supports me in every way he can. So I had no problems quitting, and feel incredibly liberated, happy and confident (after 2 years of almost depression).

    All the time I see passionate, energetic new PhD students arrive and then turn into uninterested plants after a few months after they realize what they got themselves into...

    How can we get the word out that PhD's are not this thing that all of the above posters thought they were when they went into it?

    For those of you who didn't quit yet: if there is so much doubt that you're spending most of your time on this website, it's your heart speaking, and following your heart makes you happy! And if you do what you really want, you will be succesfull in whatever you do.

    I must say that going trough this process taught me a lot, and that now I'm smarter about life, learned a lot about myself, and now have the courage to do whatever I really want for the rest of my life.

    I'm happy now :D

  171. I've been 3 years in and I'm proud of it. True, life gets tough at times, but it's like a NAVY SEAL's training program...only the best make it through. It's meant to be like this. My advice, hold tight, don't quit and you'll be remunerated.

  172. I quit my PhD program today and now I finally feel some peace. 3 years in, 4 changes in my dissertation team, including the firing of my chair last November, I'm done. Despite the madness at the Australian UNI I was attending, the final decision came down to a change in priorities in my life. Becoming a dad, wanting to have free time to spend with friends and family and wanting to maintain quality work in the good job I already have were major reasons for the change for me. I learned a great deal about myself through the process, but I'm not willing to continue investing in a process/ university I cannot trust has my best interest in mind. I wish those all the best who are continuing on with their journeys!

  173. My main supervisor is so useless that after a review with other PhD's he was completely silent. My tip, and what I'm looking for, is get skills which are in demand! Don't fool yourself the PhD job market is tiny and underpaid. I will quit as soon as I get the right job offer, and hopefully live with decent job security and remuneration. The PhD (factory), infact, education is a racket, times have changed, who cares about the fifth order approximation of the stress tensor, no one needs to know!

  174. I’ve read all of your comments and they’re extremely helpful.

    I work full-time as an editor in book publishing in NYC and have worked hard to get where I am today professionally; I also attend a top university master’s program part-time at night for the past three years studying an applied social science field I really love. I already have a Master’s degree in a related field, and took up the part-time degree as the first step toward hopefully getting into a PhD program. I think I’ve always identified myself as a student, which is why i’ve always “kept going” in academia to try to make it to the mythical “end point” of getting a PhD. I’m almost done with my second master’s, which is in an applied field, so I do think it can improve my future job prospects within publishing and even maybe as a teacher. I still plan to apply to applied PhD programs this fall (some in arts & science schools, others in schools of education) since I’ve come this far, but reading all of your comments has made me think that I’m not a failure to stop here, and that if I went through with it, I’d probably endure years of hardship to end up with nothing to show for it but a lost career that was lucrative and on the right track.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and I wish you all luck. Society should not instill in us that quitting is always a terrible thing to do!

  175. Please someone tell me its really really OK to quit. I just can't make up my mind although I have been struggling for more than 2 years now. I have not done any work this summer. I have so many deadlines which I don't think I can ever meet. Its 4.30 am, could not sleep, so thought of working instead...but I ended up reading the comments here..which I do very it feels little good to know I am not the only one!

    I feel so unmotivated that I can even get myself read one paper. I feel so stressed and can't even concentrate. I thought I had ADD but got a negative test results. I have never been so out of focus in my life.

    To be honest, I feel like I just want the title, not interested in the real work. I see other Ph.Ds are doing so well. All they do is work. I don't fit in here. I just want to get out of it so badly!1 :((((((((((((((((((

  176. For the 1st time in 12 years I feel there is hope for me. I have pursued a career in research and still do but seem to fail at every hurdle, after completing a MSc I started a doctor of education on a part time basis after 6 years and £8,0000 I had to quit. Mainly as during this period I was not able to commit to it 100% as at the same time I was working part time and gained a teaching qualification which has now become redutant (strong competition and stupid rules abt not being able to teach if you have done so much supply work but not gained nqt status). I am stuck working as a key skill tutor and receptionist since quitting my doctrate, I have gone from 1 part time job to another, I am in my mid 30s and my life is yet to start. I have decided to start again, enrolled on another MSc and will achieve my goals. It hasnt been an easy journey there has been alot.of self loathing and low self esteem. Especially when I see close friends with established careers as lawyers, dentist and doctors with fancy cars and houses, but coming across this blog has reassured me that im not alone in making the life choices that I have and the path il take its about the journey and the experience gained and not the destination, thank you to all that have contributed to this blog and helping me to realise this.

  177. I'm just under a month of my PhD programme. My mind is so inclined renouncing this sensual world and become a Buddhist monk under my teacher Yuttadhammo in SL. Well, I've got some debts to pay off which can be made off within a year. Nice to meet you guys. I'll post on this forum one year from now to tell you about my situation :)

  178. It's so reassuring to see that I'm not the only one in this situation. I decided to start a PhD because I enjoyed writing and researching so much and had great confidence in my own ideas. Three years down the line I feel like I've just constantly been trying to 'start over', constantly tweaking the topic and still nothing seems to please my Prof, and with each rejection I feel like I'm being pushed back further than where I started from. I kept telling myself this is part of the whole game: and it certainly is; you need to be able to stomach rejection at times. But once you've been driven into major depression... That might be a time to rethink.
    The ideas of wanting to quit have been there for a long time, in fact, I think I wanted to quit just 2 months into the program. Why didn't I? Because I was afraid of being a coward, and giving up was not something I had ever done in my life: I finished everything I started. But I think it takes a whole lot more confidence to be honest to yourself and stop punishing yourself for making a a decision that seemed good at the time, but has turned really ugly.
    The fears of quitting are there of course. I'm asking myself how it will look on my CV, wondering whether I'll have to change directions completely in order to ever be taken seriously again. But if you think about why it is better for you to quit, even after a very long time of trying, maybe that can be reflected positively on your CV.
    Good luck to everyone else out there trying to make a decision! Quitting isn't necessarily negative, but self-loathing is.

  179. I really thank everybody for their comments. I've been struggling with wanting to quit my PhD program lately. It has gotten to the point to where I think about quitting on a daily basis. At this juncture, I'm not entirely serious about it. But I really feel like I have lost interest in the research I have been doing; everybody around me talks with energy and passion in their subjects, and I can't get into the conversation because I just don't share it. Working on something you aren't passionate about for years is a pretty miserable thing to do. The problem for me, is I feel like I'm not sure what my alternatives are, or really what my alternative interests are. People say 'just research what you are passionate about', but I have trouble figuring out what exactly that is. Oh well!

  180. Just discovered this thread. I'm posting here to offer a cautionary tale; I'm not sure that there's much that can be done for me now. I am a long way into the process - in fact I'm 4 years postdoc and a lecturer at a prestige UK institution. I have been miserable for nearly 10 years now, despite a good marriage and all the outward signs of a flourishing career. No matter how far I go, how many publications I churn out and CV gongs I collect, the crushingly low self-esteem and lack of motivation don't go away, and in fact I've heard senior professors say the same thing. I have been toying with the idea of stopping for a while, and tried to get out of the application process which secured me my current job (not permanent). Well-intentioned female mentors twisted my arm, and now I feel locked in to more humiliation, more anxiety and depression. One thing I hope is that I can provide the kind of emotional and pastoral support to students that will keep them from the despair which so many have voiced in this forum.

  181. I just wanted to say THANK YOU to the person who created this website. It was only 3 months into my PhD before I began to have serious doubts about my ability to persevere in something that was going to bankrupt me, take away any semblance of life I had, and likely cause irreparable psychological damage. Plus, many of my friends who had finished were either on an endless stream of postdoctoral assignments (some on their fourth), and that was those who were lucky enough to find a job. Considering the debt I already had, and the fact that I would get nauseated at the thought of my weekly meetings with my adviser to go over my work (that was never good enough, and usually required me to add even more to the pile of work in having to basically re-do every thing... every week), I decided that it was time to pull the plug on the PhD.

    Not the easiest decision in the world for sure. I had went through a master's, and felt that a PhD was the next logical step for me and I guess I just went into it for all the wrong reasons. My mental health has improved.

    Kudos to those who finish a PhD, but to those who really do think they need to bow out... sit and think about it for a while. I sat and read this website and any new comments for a good 3-4 months, while still going through the motions of my PhD, to sit and think about whether or not this is something I really needed to do... and if I understood the ramifications of it. Telling my advisor was not pleasant, but it had to be done, and by the time I told my advisor, I was pretty much sick to death of my work and didn't care if she liked it or not.

    Just know... you can always do a PhD again at a later time, if you have second thoughts/regrets. It's not fatal.

    Good luck.

  182. My husband said something so lovely to me [note: my husband and I are atheists]:

    HUS: You believe that this is all there is, right?
    ME: Well, yeah.
    HUS: So why are you making what little time you have on this earth miserable?

    I cried and cried, though this is nothing new. He wants me to quit, and I do too, but I can't shake feeling like this is my one chance (it really is--I'm in my 40s and have already quit an earlier grad program) and I'm going to regret it if I leave. It breaks his heart to see me so unhappy. Five full years in and still no MA--I can't seem to finish it. Hate my topic, department, discipline. I do believe that quitting is the courageous thing, not the cowardly thing. I just don't know if I've got enough courage to take the leap. I think I'm trying to force my department and adviser to give me the push over the edge instead, which will make me feel even crappier.

    I started this mess because I wanted to teach. But the undergrads' apathy and disrespect is more than I can bear. So few have any spark, any genuine interest. I've been insulted, threatened, mocked, lied to, given ultimatums, had papers thrown at me. All from kids young enough to kids. They think I'm a joke, and I'm beginning to think they're right.

  183. So glad I stumbled upon this blog. I just started a PhD in engineering, and I'm already feeling suicidal. I've struggled for the past 8 years with bipolar disorder and crippling anxiety, and I thought I could do this but I absolutely cannot. Normal, sane people struggle with PhDs, I don't even know why I thought I had any business trying.

    Problem is I'm teaching two classes in addition to taking two classes. I'd have to abandon all of my students and leave the department high and dry. I don't know if I can even do another day.

    I don't know much anymore, but I know this isn't what life is supposed to be like.

  184. anyone can give me some suggestions?

    i am in second year of my phd in chemistry. i am a girl. when i started my phd, i never thought i would hate it, i dislke doing lab everyday, i hate all the toxic and smelly chemicals. I dun want to struggle anymore, I want to quit, but I already got one master degree. And i dun know what kind of job i can do after i quit my phd.

    I have considered to quit for several month, but still cannot make my final decision, pls some tell me it is really ok to quit.

  185. I'm six months in and have been thinking of quitting for the past few weeks. It's gotten to the point where I don't even go to the office (lab with no windows or working network connection) unless there's a meeting, although I attempt to do work at home.
    On reflection, ever since I started university I had thought about doing something else when I finished. After graduation I did a MSc, and also thought about doing something else when I finish. Then I started this PhD, and once again am starting to think about escaping it, finding a lot of other things much more enthusing.
    I think I'm doing the wrong thing, but as of now I have no way to support myself financially unless I carry on with the programme.
    Always avoiding my supervisor until he requests a meeting, and finding the subject completely uninteresting. :(

  186. I am in fourth year of my PhD and I have finished 90% of my thesis. I am depressed, unhappy, low self-esteem..and I don;t even think of submit my thesis.

    Quit as soon as possible.

  187. I have decided to quit within the next two months. Just trying to get some courage and figure out what to do next. No PhD no stipend.

  188. I have decided to quit too, after 1.5 years I feel I am not doing nothing useful, but before that I need to find a real job, thanks for sharing the experiences...

  189. I'm currently nearing the end of a 3 year PhD period (funding stops in Jan) at a UK-based business school and am miles off finishing. Honestly it's driving me mad. For the first time in what has previously been a highly enjoyable life I am completely miserable. I've developed problems with anxiety and depression. I have been feeling panicked and, at times, suicidal. I've recently had to look into options for therapy. Maybe someone can give me some UK-orientated advice?

    I gained my 1st class honours in business management in 2005 (pretty much being the star of the uni) and after a year or so travelling the world was awarded a full 4 year scholarship to do a masters and a PhD. I sailed through the masters with a distinction. Since then, however, the completely unstructured life and passive supervision I've recieved during my phd has not agreed with me at all. I've just sort of stumbled along and eaten up the time. I'm now sitting with a first draft of half the literature and probably just about enough data, but no analysis to speak of yet.

    I know that I'm to blame for not working hard enough, but looking back I realised that I hated my academic discipline and academia in general from very early on in my PhD. I hated teaching the students that garbage and felt like screaming at them 'go and do a vocational subject!'. It's only now that my funding period is coming to an end that I'm thinking to myself 'I'm am never going to pursue any type of academic career, so why kill myself for a PhD?'

    My concerns are:
    - I will absolutely run out of money this time next year - so can't fund myself beyond this
    - I have very little experience outside university life (other than acting as a TA, an RA, and a 3 month placement with local government)
    - I'll have a massive gap in my CV and I'll be unemployable
    - Everyone knows I'm doing a PhD and I'm so embarrassed to fail it
    - I have very little tangible skills other than just being 'a bit clever' and 'a good writer'
    - I graduated my masters in 2008 and this is too long ago for me to go for any graduate positions (many of which insist on grads of no more than 2 years ago). Have I just been lifted out of the stream of useful employment?

    For the first time I'm truly considering quitting (or seeking out some info on maybe pursuing an MPhil instead - so that I at least have a shot at some grad programmes). I'm terrified about what repercussions this might have, but as things stand I don't feel capable of finishing the PhD.

    I've been left feeling that social sciences at university are largely a joke. I feel ridiculous for not doing a vocational subject like a number of my friends who are now well off and happy. I can't imagine who will employ me or what I will do. the whole experience has changed me from a happy, supremely confident and capable boy to a reserved, panicked mess.

    I hate it, and would appreciate any advice that anyone could give me.

  190. It is incredible to read so many cases about how frustrating doing a PhD can be. I feel myself identified with so many of these posts... The completely unstructured and solitary life, one is supposed to learn from him/herself... I am also quitting my PhD and I regret now it has taken me so much to realize how much I hated it and taking the decision. Of course, I am also concerned on how to get into the job market (after three years) and with almost no experience. Besides, I moved from abroad to Europe to do my PhD (with a lot of illusion), and now after three years, it feels a failure to come back home with nothing. I do not feel I have learned anything... I became completely depressed, apathic, my self-esteem got affected (also spent months going to psycho, getting pills). And probably, I will need a year time, if not more to regain confidence... Anything good about the whole experience? I would also appreciate suggestions on how to sell yourself to the market after a failed PhD...
    Thanks for the post, it is sad but also good to know that I am not the only one feeling this way...

  191. This has been a wonderful resource for me. I am a second year PhD student in Pharmacology, and I've been having an extremely difficult time. I feel there is a real dearth of local grad student support groups. If anyone lives in the NYC area, I've just created a local meetup group online that could become a really valuable resource for us:

  192. I'm 32 - used to be a computer technician. Currently 3rd year into an undergrad. I've been getting excellent marks and was considering going for a PhD in economics afterwards. Ummm.... not anymore! I think I'm going to finish this undergrad (economics & math), be done with it, and teach myself computer programming! PhD sounds like WAY too much of a risk.

  193. I am a 3rd year PhD student in the UK, and just have been doing too many sacrifices been in a foreign country far away from home and friends.

    To prepare everything well in advance, I moved here some time before my family. But what were initially 3 months, finishing been 8. eight months away from my wife and our my daughter.

    We manage to be together about 2 years, but then my wife finished her PhD, just two months ago, and so her funding is over. She had to go back to our country, with our daughter. I was planning to go with them, because my fieldwork was going to be there too.

    But I just cannot get everything prepared to leave. There is always a form to fill, a reference to include, labwork not working, experiments to repeat, methods to change, questionnaires to edit, something to write, presentations, etc, etc, etc.

    Today, my advisor suggest "You can do all that stuff between Christmas and New Year, the lab will be nice and quiet then"...

    I should said: I meant to be having a Christmas with my daughter! She's only four! She does not deserve this! I miss her! I have missed half of her life! But I didn't. I was almost crying. I would break in tears if I would open my mouth. I did not had the courage. I was coward...

    But not any more...

    Google: Quit PhD

    Thanks Alexander.

  194. I made it through, barely. I was left with feelings of worthlessness after dealing with a thoughtless, and I might add, somewhat derainged and medicated, committee chair. The work was extremely difficult. You have to power through and give up your life for several years. It's just not an easy route. But going into academia finished me. The egos, the self promotion, the clicks, and finally, when you're left swinging in the wind wondering if you're even worthly to live on the same planet as all of these brilliant specimens, and their families made up of surgeons, CEO, and other fabulous movers and shakers, you fall prey to the asshole president of the university who truly believes that sleeping with a junior, non-tenured ABD faculty, and the only person in the department who actually doesn't hate the president's guts, is only about boosting his ego, and nothing about taking advantage of another human being who acually has feelings for him. Stupid me. When you find yourself between a rock and a hard palce, let the fucking rock roll over on you and end the suffering, it's better than losing your job, and walking away with your head hanging in shame. Maybe I'll recover. It's been almost 10 years. The shame is shared by everyone.

  195. I am only a few months into my PhD, but luckily I have realized early that this is not the route for me. But I have some questions.

    How do I quit?

    Will I have to pay back my stipend?

    If anybody could answer these for me I would be very greatful! Please

  196. That depends of the conditions of your sponsorship.
    I have been wasting my life for 3 years on my PhD, but I cannot afford to pay everything back (stipend, fees, research costs, grants, plane tickets, etc), which is the condition of my sponsor.

  197. dude

    a phd is overrated unless u are really contributing to new finding that helps humanity...much like einstein, nash, archimedes, oppenheim blaa222.

    a phd nowadays is merely a certification that u can do a research in accordance academic standard (different to industry standard).

    it is a research training by any means, it does not mean u are better than anybody (mentally, physically, financially). For god sake, an average industry/management executives don't give a damn if u are professor (+40 years of outstanding research).

    If u like it, go for it, if it consumes your happiness..why bother...unless u are permanent staff from some organization which sponsors u for it and u still have a job whether u finish or not, dont be so hard on yourself.

    It is a free will, freedom...i'm 5 months into phd program, just decided to change supervisor coz he's treating me like a high school kid, whereas i was in engineer 7 yrs, teaching univ 4 years..just tell me the direction if u can, if not leave me alone, i'll report it in due time, if u think i am not efficient, just fail me for god sake, dont blabber and ask me to see him everyday for motivation speech...whats wrong with this guy...he probably thinks he is dalai lama or somebody really wise. ahahaaha

  198. This is a site with probably the most truthful description of PhD and post-PhD experience I have ever seen, its amazing. Everything is there - feeling lonely, tired, exhausted, no real life, looking around as everyone else seems to be advancing in their careers and personal life, literally hating supervisors and having no real support and by the end wondering what was this good for, as even getting an "ordinary job" for which you dont need a PhD seems a success. PhD is living hell really, even if you really like your research or topic. I had an unusual "luck" that i managed to make it to the end of dissertation relatively quickly (3 years) and get the job as lecturer way before finishing the dissertation - and though I like talking about my topic (social science and law), definitely watching younger generations just passing by year after year and not really caring about what I am saying as they just want to have fun, get a grade and forget it is not my idea of fun. Even business career looks interesting and exciting now, ouch - never thought I would say this. When I remember how enthusiastic i was about academia, I am ashamed of my stupidity.

  199. If I drop out at the end of a semester/quarter on an NIH sponsored fellowship, will they make me pay it back? I can't find anything about that anywhere in the documents I have about the program.

  200. I have been considering quitting my Ph.D. pretty much since the moment I started it. I am not getting the institutional support I need (not financial, but otherwise) and feel like my vision and dreams have just changed. I am an adjunct prof and do love to teach university students but hate how dramatic and bitchy people are in academia.. It's awful. I fear that if I quit I will have nothing else to do (and I'll have to start paying back student loans. Ha!) but if I don't quit..I feel in some way that life is passing me by...